Industry Champion Interview

Name: Jerome Rodriguez
Position: Manager – Industry Relations
Organization: Industry Training Authority of BC

The Industry Training Authority (ITA) is responsible for leading and coordinating the skilled trades training and credentialing system for the province. ITA provides strategic leadership, policy support and customer services to help apprentices, employers and industry. ITA sets program standards, maintains credential records and issues the highly regarded Interprovincial Red Seal and BC Certificate of Qualifications (C of Q) credentials.

Jerome’s family immigrated to Canada in 1976 and he is personally familiar with many of the challenges skilled new Canadians face, as well as the benefits inherent in employing new Canadian talent. Over the years, his work experience with the Industry Training Authority of BC has helped broaden his perspective on BC’s new Canadian workforce and provided him with more insights on the challenges and successes that lie ahead for BC’s natural gas employers and new Canadian talent that is vital to the health and continued growth of their businesses.

What is ITA’s Action Plan for LNG Trades Training?

ITA has launched a new Action Plan for LNG Trades Training to prepare a qualified workforce for BC’s developing LNG sector. The plan ensures British Columbians, including First Nations communities, are first in line for jobs. The plan has been reviewed and validated by key industry stakeholders.

In the first stages of the plan, ITA has set out eight actions which the organization will deliver on:

  • Establish an LNG/natural gas Sector Advisory Group that will provide direct input to government and ITA on matters relating to workforce development for the sector.
  • Finish developing the ITA occupational standards for the Construction Craft Worker trade program.
  • Learn more about the Construction Craftworker trade.
  • Develop a specialized Construction Craft Worker Foundation Program targeted at First Nations individuals.
  • Increase youth participation with a focus on high-demand LNG-related trades.
  • Complete the hiring of 15 Apprenticeship Advisors across BC, five of whom will be focused on supporting and recruiting the Aboriginal community. Learn more about Advisors.
  • Develop a communications strategy focused on trades-related employment and training opportunities in the LNG sector.
  • Establish provincial/interprovincial occupational standards for a range of service jobs in the upstream sector.
  • Conduct further research into an alternative sponsorship/group training model for smaller employers that provides enhanced supports and allows apprentices to complete their apprenticeships with a number of employers.


Interview with Jerome Rodriguez:

What are some of the greatest benefits in hiring new Canadian talent?
Many new Canadians possess the skills and experience needed in many industry sectors in BC, though they struggle with language issues and having their previous work experience recognized.

Immigration has always been a engine of economic and demographic growth and highly educated immigrants contribute to innovation. One-quarter of the U.S.-based Nobel laureates of the last 50 years were foreign-born. Highly educated immigrants account for about one-third of U.S. innovation with immigrants founding 25 percent of new high-tech companies with more than $1 million in sales, generating income and employment.

Many new Canadians arrive with technical certifications and undergraduate and/or post graduate degrees only to work entry-level, low-skill jobs. Immigrants bring vital skills, education, training and experience to an already culturally diverse labour pool. They also bring cultural diversity and new global perspectives. Immigrants can introduce diversity to a workplace, encouraging employee retention. Many new Canadians will speak highly of their place of work, positioning these businesses as ‘employers of choice’.

As a consequence of the availability of more workers, businesses expand investment as well as their productive capacity. Immigrants tend to be more willing to move in order to find jobs and as such, immigration can serve to equalize local booms and busts by moving potential workers away from declining regions and into booming areas. It can be argued that immigrants help stabilize the economy and reduce the “mismatch” between local labour demand/supply.

What motivates BC organizations to hire new Canadians?
The province is willing to invest in immigrants who can learn the skills needed by today’s workplace. The work is challenging, fulfilling and well-paid. Tradespeople report high levels of satisfaction in their work, and on average, they earn double the wage of someone who works in retail sales (for example).

Which skills or occupations, if any, are we having problems staffing in BC?
LNG facilities in northwest and southwest BC would see a requirement for thousands of trade workers by 2018 with high-demand scenarios for:

  • Construction labourers
  • Steamfitters & pipefitters
  • Sprinkler system installers
  • Gas fitters
  • Millwrights
  • Machinists
  • Welders
  • Electricians (Industrial)
  • Truck drivers
  • Power engineers
  • Instrumentation and control technicians

Which activities does your organization engage in to attract skilled new Canadians?
Currently, the Industry Training Authority is responsible for the Immigrants in Trades Training program (ITT) and through that initiative funds service providers and training providers across the province to assist eligible Immigrants to access pre-apprenticeship training and employment services. The funding for these programs is made available through the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund.

Do you access any external resources (employment counselors, employment agencies, unions, etc.) to find skilled new Canadians?
The ITA accesses the following:

What kinds of assessment tools or techniques do you use to assess the attitudes, skills and qualifications of prospective new Canadian workers?
We access ITA – Essential Skills tools, WorkBC resources and HRDC resources.

What do you feel are good skills, attitudes and attributes for a new Canadian wanting to work in this sector to possess?

  • Language skills
  • Written skills (reports)
  • Knowledge of safety requirements, safety certification
  • Understanding of codes and specifications
  • Document usage
  • Numeracy
  • Interpretation of drawings/blueprints/labels
  • Computer skills
  • Ability to work alone/work with others
  • Drivers license, transportation

How important do you feel skilled new Canadians are in filling current and future skills caps and worker shortages in the natural gas sector?
New Canadians will be crucial to success in the energy sector. BC’s oil and gas industry currently struggles to attract and retain enough workers. According to the Petroleum Human Resource Council of Canada, up to 42 per cent of pending job vacancies may not get filled due to projected labour shortages.

The BC Natural Gas Workforce Strategy Committee projects that the LNG sector alone will require more than 75,000 permanent skilled workers in the coming decade, plus another 60,000 people to build the plants and pipelines. The labour market in Northeast BC, consistently has the province’s lowest unemployment rate and is already operating at capacity. Immigrants are a key source of expertise as oil and gas companies work to meet their hiring needs in the years ahead.

In your opinion, what types of services or resources are needed to improve a new Canadian’s performance and job satisfaction?

  • Connecting to/with established new Canadians
  • Information on employment standards, health and safety, human rights and workers’ compensation procedures
  • Information on financial supports, grants and incentives
  • Job readiness training/information (safety requirements, occupation specific requirements)
  • Training, networking and other resources
  • Train/Certify before arrival (essential skills, language, gap/bridge training, upgrading)