The Industry Training Authority is adding a pair of boots on the ground in Prince George to boost human relations between apprentices, the companies that hire them and local training centres.
The new position is called an "apprenticeship advisor" and the training authority is also adding one in Terrace to deal with the increasing industrial activity going on there, requiring more skilled tradespeople from the apprenticeship ranks.
"This is just phase one. We are on a steep ramp-up to have 15 in B.C. by the end of 2014," said CEO Gary Herman. Nanaimo and Kelowna were the other regional centres that got an apprentice advisor last week, with the other 11 still to come. "We wanted to start with a phase one to ensure it was done right."
Walter Sorokovsky is the apprenticeship advisor stationed in Prince George but responsible for the whole north-central/northeast region. A machinist and millwright by trade, with a background in heritage building restoration, Sorokovsky has been an instructor and lecturer for both CNC and Northern Lights College over the years, and now is the go-between for apprentices and those institutions of education and employment.
"We have to start work now, on top of what's already been done by the ITA, to address those employment numbers coming at us in the next six to seven years, and the issues that means to the companies and the people wanting those careers in the north," said Sorokovsky. "We are networking at this point to spot how we can find collaboration points. There is a lot of energy out there, a lot of movement in the resource economy, and a lot of potential for apprentices."
The Industry Training Authority once had in-person counsellors for the province's apprentice candidates, but technology provided a centralized communication model in recent years. However, said Herman, the already sizzling apprenticeship field needed to go back to the direct human contact mode as well as the high-tech support system.
"The goal is to work closely between colleges, the apprentices, and the sponsor employers with face to face contact," said Herman. "We have our call centre in Richmond, we have our online services, those will continue, but we are adding a much needed personal element right in the communities where apprentices are. There is no substitute for face to face."
The four apprenticeship advisors of phase one have been getting up to speed since February. Herman said the personal in-the-field consultation was a request that came directly from the stakeholders in the three-part industrial relationship. They will be a conduit of knowledge for companies interested in obtaining an apprentice or maximize their existing apprenticeship intake program, also a consultant for the instructors in the classrooms, and an advisor for the apprentices themselves on how to position themselves for the jobs to which they aspire.
Sorokovsky said he has particular hopes to attract a higher representation of First Nations and women to the technology and industry trades.