Forestry Labour: Remote Recruiting

The problem with people is that, unlike coal or wood chips, they can’t simply be trucked around at the whims of supply and demand. But on June 25, a block of staff-hungry B.C. employers dispatched their recruiters to the Prince George Civic Centre to do their best. An estimated 3,000 people around Prince George have been laid off in the current downturn in the B.C. forest industry, and matching them with the wealth of vacant jobs elsewhere in the province seemed a no-brainer. When the North Central Plywood mill burned in May, putting another 250 people suddenly out of work, managers at longtime area supplier BC Bearing Group decided to do something about it, says Terry Duncan, the company’s vice-president of people engagement. Duncan and his colleagues signed up 22 of the biggest employers in Western Canada to join a job fair, including Telus Corp. (T), Finning International Inc. (FTT), Ledcor Group of Companies and Suncor Energy Inc. (SU) – a group with 1,500 to 2,000 vacant positions. “We were actually turning employers away,” he says. “There wasn’t room for another booth.” Duncan reports that close to 1,200 job seekers came to the fair, with about two-thirds coming from the Prince George area. The jobs on offer were more dispersed, however, spread out between the Lower Mainland, northern B.C. and Alberta oil sites. Which means that while the motives of employers and job seekers were aligned, geography intervened. Terry Tate is the forest worker co-ordinator for the Prince George-area local of the United Steelworkers. He helped BC Bearing organize the job fair and calls it a great success but says that getting people to move out of Prince George is a major difficulty for out-of-town employers. Many in the community are looking for work outside of the region, Tate says, but they don’t plan on moving their families. “[They’re] taking these jobs with the hope that the industry is going to turn around and they can come back.” He cautions that there’s little point in recruiting far-flung applicants unless there’s a place for them to live, adding that there’s plenty of room for improvement in employers’ efforts to relocate workers into housing-strapped areas.