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Industry And trades SUMMER 2019

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Inside 4

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Northern schools

get tools for the job........................................... pg 4

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CNC student manufactures

national gold......................................................................................pg 6

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Prince George putting the forest

under a microscope.....................................................pg 7 Safe at home:

Keeping baseball in stitches............. pg 10

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a Division of

Cutting costs:

Forest industry staggers under pressures.............................................................. pg 12

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Northern schools get

tools for the job

The future of northern B.C. industrial workers just got some extra hands-on help. Written by Frank Peebles

The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training invested in a collection of equipment that will be spread among some of the college programs of the north, so students can have new tools of their trades. Coast Mountain College, College of New Caledonia and Northern Lights College will also receive some of this new gear. Citizen file photo by Brent Braaten.

Training with the latest tools and equipment allows students to gain real-world skills that translate to the jobs of tomorrow. – Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade & Technology

Other trades institutions will also receive similar investments, but these three get the most recent injection of this targeted funding. Each of them will receive $160,000 to buy up-to-date equipment earmarked for trades and technology programs. “Student success is the key ingredient to creating, building and maintaining the best B.C.,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills & Training. “Our strong economy and the technology driving it are rapidly evolving. Investing in students, skills and state-of-the-art training equipment at our


province’s post-secondary institutions is a win-win.” Trades and technology workers are in high demand, Mark said. The 2018 B.C. Labour Market Outlook projects about 82,300 tech-related job openings and about 71,000 trades openings in the province in the next decade. “Employment opportunities in the trades and technology sectors are increasing in every region of the province, helping to further B.C.’s economic prosperity,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade & Technology. “Training with the latest tools and equipment allows students to gain real-world skills that translate to the jobs of tomorrow.” Henry Reiser, outgoing president of the College of New Caledonia, said this was welcome money right in the heart of the education mandate provided by the Prince George-based college. “This investment in new equipment helps the College of New Caledonia offer high-quality programming and focus on the success of our trades students,” Reiser said. “Our highly skilled graduates will have up-to-date experience to meet the needs of local

industry and employers.” Bryn Kulmatycki, president of Northern Lights College based in the Peaceregion, echoed those sentiments. “Northern Lights College’s trades and apprenticeship programs help students build the skills to become the highly trained workers industry needs. State-of-the art equipment ensures we’re giving our students the tools to succeed and take advantage of an incredible amount of opportunity in the North.” Some of the new gear this money will buy includes an arc welder for Coast Mountain College’s heavy-duty program, laser alignment equipment for College of New Caledonia’s industrial mechanic program in Quesnel, and a hydraulic and troubleshooting trainer for Northern Lights College’s heavy mechanical trades program. “The experience trades students get in their classrooms, labs and kitchens is so important to set them up for successful careers,” said Shelley Gray, CEO of the Industry Training Authority. “When students have access to the most-up-to-date equipment, it’s really building skills that employers need, and that will allow them to excel in their future careers.”

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Citizen file photo by Brent Braaten.


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CNC student manufactures

National Gold The local industrial sector is about to get Canada’s best. Written by Frank Peebles Dustin Cathcart is an apprentice student in the field of mechanics and millwrighting, and he just won the national championship in his field at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC). It makes him a golden commodity when he graduates soon from the College of New Caledonia (CNC). Cathcart competed throughout the twoday competition performing skills such as fabricating a jack shaft base within .0001-inch tolerance and taking apart, checking and reassembling a gear box, and also a centrifugal pump. “I felt confident with my work and was hoping for the best,” he said. “It was challenging but definitely a great experience.” The SCNC was held this year in Halifax. Cathcart had a prominent voice there to cheer him on. It was his CNC Industrial Mechanic/ Millwright instructor Sergio Jorquera who went along to support his student. Jorquera said there were many challenges throughout the competition but Cathcart’s flexibility to manage change contributed to his win. “The machinery and circumstances were different from what he was used to,” Jorquera said. “I’m very proud of him.” Also in his corner was CNC’s Dean of Trades and Technologies Frank Rossi who was there in Abbotsford for the provincial round of competition at which

Cathcart won the right to represent B.C. in his category at the national level. “We hope Dustin’s success will inspire youth to consider trades as a future career, help current students connect with future opportunities, and enhance our trades community,” Rossi said. More than 550 students and apprentices from across the country competed at SCNC for the title of national champion in 44 skill areas. It is an event that includes industry leaders and government officials in attendance as well as the general public. An estimated 7,500 people attended the SCNC event overall. Among the 132 medalists, only 25 were from B.C. and only eight earned the gold. “All of us at CNC are incredibly proud of Dustin’s accomplishment,” said Tim Lofstrom, regional principal for CNC’s Quesnel campus where Cathcart studies. “He and his instructor, Sergio, are wonderful ambassadors for the college and the community of Quesnel.” The 2020 Skills Canada National Competition will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, in Vancouver on May 28-29 next year. PHOTO: Dustin Cathcart, a CNC student based in Quesnel, won the Canadian championship in the mechanics/millwright category for trades students across the country. Photo courtesy Skills Canada.


Prince George putting the

FOREST Under A Microscope

PHOTO: Micro-cellulose hydrogels produced by microfluidization using bleached and unbleached wood fibers. Photo by Valeria Azovskaya.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Written by Frank Peebles Even in recent times, trees were regarded mostly for their potential as lumber. The most dominant use of timber by far has been dimension cuts used to build structures. It has always been the case that some wood material has also been applied to making other goods like furniture and guitars and utility poles. In very recent years an industry has quickly evolved for using wood fiber for energy pellets, taking the concept of firewood to a whole new level. Science is now surging forward with the possibilities for wood, and in a little less than a year, Prince George will be the site for the most comprehensive conversation in the world about what the future holds for the ancient tree. “Canada’s largest and longest-running conference on the bioeconomy will be the place for industry, government, communities, and researchers to meet and discuss some of the greatest challenges facing the nation: climate change, energy security, and truly sustainable economic development,” said Cam McAlpine, one of the founding organizers of the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference & Exhibition. Despite the dates being June 10-12 of 2020, the conversations are already forming and concepts already floating about what will come of this progressive view of the forest. “Prince George is one of the most diversified and important forestry communities in Canada

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and continued innovation and leadership in this sector is critical to our economic development,” said Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall. “We’re delighted to again be hosting the Canadian Bioeconomy Conference and Exhibition next June.” The chair of the conference’s board of directors, Rob van Adrichem, said this discussion venue has become internationally recognized as the place to bring up the full future potential of forests, because it goes to the molecular level. “As the world works to develop economies that are less carbon-intensive and wasteful, the bioeconomy is a tremendous opportunity for B.C. and for Canada,” said van Adrichem. “It has special significance for rural, remote and Indigenous communities, as it uses a readily available resource to create local jobs, energy security, and build economic development.” The Canadian Bioeconomy Strategy reports that more than 21 million metric tonnes of raw biomass was transformed into bioproducts in Canada in 2017 alone. Of that total, 60 per cent came from forestry. Total revenues in 2017 surpassed $4 billion. “With projects such as the groundbreaking Canfor-Licella biofuels project, the industry is now moving quickly toward new technologies and new innovations in wood-based products that are fuelling the new bioeconomy,” said McAlpine. More information on the conference can be found at www.bioeconomyconference.com.


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Safe At Home

Keeping baseball in stitches Written by Frank Peebles Some industries go deep into mountains, some under water, some into forests or across prairies. And some, like the one Terry Collins put her hand to, fits in a corner of her basement at home. While entrepreneurs sometimes dream of hitting a home run in business, this one is more like executing a perfect bunt. Collins is deeply involved in baseball. Her

husband Lyle Boutin is a noted player and coach. Her son Colton was an all-star in his boyhood, and his younger sister Leah is getting into it now, too. There is an umpire in the family. She is the uniform coordinator for the Prince George Youth Baseball Association. A family holiday for them ideally involves a major league ballpark. In their household, baseball is a year-round lifestyle. In her own childhood, Collins’ mother

was a commercial done.” embroiderer. When She started making [Terry] has cooperative she passed away, them for Colton’s Collins was beteam. They were relationships with PG’s queathed one of the a hit - a conversalarger embroidery firms stitching machines, tion piece that went because she is the only even though she deep. hadn’t taken up the Someone suggested one among them who profession herself. she look at sellwould go to the effort It sat in her baseing this service on ment for years until the Etsy website. of disassembling and one day, embroidery Collins had never reassembling a baseball and baseball came heard of it, so after together like bat on some quick research for each stitching job. ball. she understood the Collins saw a compossibilities. It’s an memorative baseball. There was nothonline marketplace for artisans. ing remarkable about that. You see them Collins now gets orders from all over North everywhere. The curve ball was how Collins America for small batches of commemonoticed it was a vinyl overlay on the baserative custom embroidery on baseballs. ball that gave it its customized look. Some have a player’s name, some have “I just thought ‘that would look a lot better topical words like Most Sportsmanlike or if it was stitched,” she said. She suddenly Best Coach. She can also tailor the job to a had the machine in the basement fully in team’s colours, if so desired. mind. “It’s gone international,” she said, listing off “I stole one of Lyle’s baseballs and took it all the places from which orders have come: apart to see how it was made, and how it Saskatchewan, California, South Carolina, might go back together again,” said Collins. Virginia, Ontario, Florida, three years in a “It all worked. The machine can easily stitch row to the same youth baseball association through the leather, and it just means I have in Georgia, in the orange and purple of the to hand-stitch the covers back on when I’m Georgia Octane team...


All of them are small-batch orders. Her largest bulk contract was 72 baseballs with MVP stitched in, to be given as gifts to all the players at the 2019 BC Minor Baseball 15U Provincials held this year in her home town of Prince George. She has cooperative relationships with PG’s larger embroidery firms because she is the only one among them who would go to the effort of disassembling and reassembling a baseball for each stitching job, but she does need her materials and machine maintenance so they happily work with her. “It’s just a boutique industry for me,” she said. “This is just a hobby, really, and it helps pay my vacation fund. I do it because I know people really like them and nobody else is doing it, and it keeps my hands busy when I can’t sit still.” Collins’ business can be found on the Etsy website under her business name Wall Of Thread. It’s an homage to her mother. Collins remembered the spools of colourful thread of all gauges and textures on a caddy mounted to her mother’s wall behind the embroidery machines. It was a wall of thread. Now, Collins is hitting the idea of small-scale industry over the wall and out of the ballpark.

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PHOTO: Terry Collins in her home based business where she customizes baseballs. She takes them apart, stitches words on them, then reassembles the baseballs. Citizen photo by Brent Braaten


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Cutting Costs Forest industry staggers under pressures

The Official Opposition’s list of closed and curtailed mills reads like a set of neon signs along Broadway. Quesnel. Chetwynd. Mackenzie. Fort St. John. 100 Mile House. Williams Lake.

Ashcroft. Merritt. Clearwater. Prince George. Valemount. McBride.

Story continued on next page.

Cache Creek. Canoe. Revelstoke. Vavenby.


Written by Frank Peebles Workers at sawmills in these towns and more have been recently told that their place of business is closed for good, taking a long shutdown, or is in some kind of production limbo. Not as well lit are the lists of contractors and small businesses that provide every imaginable service and good to these mills and millworkers. Those small firms have no Human Resources departments to help them locate work elsewhere. They have no Employment Insurance. They have no transition funds or severance packages. They, too, though, are out of work and the payments are still due on their homes, vehicles, and often expensive tools of their trade like logging trucks, excavators, tree processors, etc. The Official Opposition party (BC Liberals) was recently in government, and they have been hollering criticisms and complaints towards the current government (NDP/Green coalition) that when troubles hit small communities, they rolled out the machinery of aid. Where was the government to help the workers now fearing for their homes and livelihoods? The Citizen-Industry & Trades asked the government for input on the actions they were taking to ease the pain of the forest

industry’s current downturn. No details were provided. The province’s official forestry critic, MLA John Rustad of the Nechako-Lakes riding, and a career forest worker prior to elected office, theorized why the industry was suffering so dramatically right now. For those who contend his views are purely partisan, he said, follow the statistics and check his assertions. Challenging factor were already afoot, he said, like the mountain pine beetle disaster, the massive wildfires of recent summers, trade disputes with the United States lumber lobby, and soft markets in America and Asia. What pushes the situation into crisis territory, he said, were factors closer to home those broader pan-industry problems. “Government policies have driven up our costs and made our industry uncompetitive. That’s why we are seeing the curtailments,” he said. “We have become the highest cost producers in North America. When there isn’t a recognition by government that that is a problem, it is hard to see how we’ll come through this anytime soon. There is an ongoing structural problem within our forest industry. Our uncompetitiveness in this province is a real problem. Alberta mills aren’t down. U.S. mills aren’t down. Other mills in Canada are not down. Why are we

Thursday, July 25, 2019

down? We are down because we are the highest cost producer.” The costs he speaks of include layers of taxes, layers of red tape, and a sluggish permitting process that all combine to topple companies that were only barely hanging on in the first place because of the aforementioned broader challenges. The Prince George Chamber of Commerce recently called a number of direct and indirect stakeholders of the forestry sector together with some opposition MLAs in the room to hold a free-flowing conversation about what effects they were experiencing in their operations, and how things could perhaps be helped. Those stakeholders spoke frankly under the promise of withholding their identities. Some were bankers, some were accountants, some were indirect contractors who supported the forest industry, some were direct contractors like loggers, some were mill owners or managers, some were in management in other industries. “On the contractor side, it is as big a workforce moving up the supply chain to the sawmill as it is at the sawmill, and even the strongest contractors in the province don’t have the infrastructure internally to handle the worker issues when there is a major shutdown,” one small business operator

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said. “So they desperately need that outside intervention from some other entity like government to be able to come in. The contractors don’t even know what the options are and won’t know how to interface with participants in other industries or what the options even are under support services from the government, so to expect them to try to manage that process, while at the same time they might be losing everything because they’ve got all these dollars financing their equipment, with their houses securing that financing, that is a significant challenge on their own mental health so how do they look after workers, too? There is more of a need for government support in that supply chain than at the sawmill, and it’s needed there, too.” An accountant said “why isn’t there a playbook? Why isn’t this just rolling off an assembly line?” while a banker said his staff were starting to get key information into the hands of many of those affected in the hardest hit communities, but without government officials standing shoulder to shoulder with them, it was harder to leverage financial aid, and harder to impress upon a head office in another province how best to handle the clients who were now suffering and under deep financial threat. Story continued on page 14


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Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes went through Canfor’s mill closure a few years ago caused by the mountain pine beetle’s effects. She said the response from government then was swift and multi-dimensional. She was acutely aware, she said, of what she called “the three o’clock in the morning stress” felt by those threatened contractors and the mill workers with fewest prospects. She also reminded the public that these out-of-work and under duress citizens of the community were also the ones who would typically sponsor the town’s events and sports teams and school trips and medical causes, but if they can’t make ends meet, those resources would also dry up for the grassroots organizations that set a community’s tone. Donna Barnett is the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin and she said the economic realities of her region were already a struggle. Now they are dire. “Our community has not recovered from the fires,” and now mill curtailments are piled on, she said. “When we lose these people, they are our hockey coaches our baseball coaches, the backbone of our community, and they will be gone. In my community alone we have 450 logging contractors affected by the mills. They’ve got no E.I. (employment insurance), they’ve got

nothing. And what bothers me is, we ask the (provincial government) if they have contacted the federal government and do you know what response we get? We get no response. We may be the opposition, but I am their (riding residents’) MLA regardless of if they voted for me or not and you are disrespecting my constituents.” Oakes pointed out that one of the actions most needed from the provincial government was to partner with the federal government on an aid package. That had to be specially designed for the situation and targeted at the affected workers and their families. With the federal system about to go into election mode, that work should have already been done or important time might be lost when Parliament goes into electoral slowdown. “We lose sight of how fragile that margin is between being successful and unsuccessful,” said Ben Stewart, MLA for Kelowna West. “With the mountain pine beetle, it was like a tsunami and we could see it and somewhat measure what was going to happen and at least be a bit prepared. With this, it is an economic tsunami.” Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond was also at the Chamber’s roundtable meeting and tried to encourage action above rhetoric. “People want to make this about partisan

politics. It’s not,” she said. “But it is time for someone (from within government) to sit down and look in the eyes of those workers, those mayors, those company owners, those people who need jobs, and get an understanding of what’s going on here. Because it is not just the workers who have been laid off, it is contractors, it is small business owners, and to suggest we should be patient… there are people who are worried about losing their houses. They can’t make the payment on their equipment. For heaven’s sakes it’s not rocket science. You need to get the teams that are available within government on the ground in those communities. We know there are bigger forestry issues, but right now we need to take care of workers, families, contractors, communities.” One of the area’s sawmill owners had some suggestions as to how that might be best accomplished. It starts, said the miller, with providing certainty in the wake of the fires and beetles. There is less merchantable timber out there. The Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) needed to be set in a way that gave each mill at least a dependable minimum. “In this era of declining AAC, there will be mill shutdowns,” the mill owner said. “There’s one thing that’s kind of lost in this. The curtailments and shutdowns have all not occurred with the smaller independents.

Carrier, Dunkley, Brink, Sinclar, they all are running full-bore. Why? Because we are all ‘all-in.’ As smaller independents, we take the longer term view. When things are tough we have measured these kinds of situations before. Even if there’s some red ink, we can make it up in the long run. So I would suggest government should do what they can to enhance the small- and medium-sized companies. If we had a base with which to work, we can then find our way. If we lose our AAC, we are basically to the point where we’ll have to shut down. We are a one-mill operation. We would be done.” The aforementioned contractor noted that the big major companies were taking their large purses of money and investing in foreign operations that will be profitable for them if B.C. is not. That might look good on the shareholders’ balance sheet, but it distracts money, resources and action on the ground away from B.C. “I want to echo what (the mill owner) is saying,” said the contractor representative. “The reality is the guys who’re going to be here long-term are the smaller players. Those are the ones we need to encourage and grow with. The big guys have already drawn a line in the sand and said they are willing to shut down operations in B.C. and move on.”


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Profile for Prince George Citizen

Industry and Trade - Summer 2019  

Industry and Trade - Summer 2019  

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