FIRST program helps fill skills gap in northern B.C.
Economy, Education, Families Monday, November 19, 2012 9:00 AM

PRINCE GEORGE - An extension of an agreement between government and the Central Interior Logging Association (CILA) will allow 30 more students to train as log and chip truck drivers or heavy-equipment operators under the Forest Industry Readiness Skills Training (FIRST) program and place them in permanent positions within the sector.

Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Pat Bell and John Rustad, Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry, visited O'Brien Training Ltd., the facility that runs the FIRST program, to announce the additional investment of $494,296 through a Labour Market Sector Solutions (LMSS) agreement.

The FIRST program is operating as a pilot in Prince George where there is the highest demand for this type of training. It consists of in-class training on topics like general forestry operations and safety.

A major highlight of FIRST is the combination of in-class training and in-seat training, which allows students to accumulate many hours of hands-on experience to make them highly employable. As the demand for skilled workers in forest harvesting is rapidly increasing, students who successfully complete the program will have the opportunity to continue employment with one of the project's industry partners.

Aimed at helping participants to secure permanent employment, the FIRST program is funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement. In March 2012, government signed its initial LMSS agreement with CILA. The extension of the agreement brings the total investment to $988,592 to train 60 people. To date, 22 people have completed the FIRST program and are now working in the forestry sector.

In 2011, the B.C. forest sector employed more than 53,000 workers. A total of 29,170 job openings are expected in the region between now and 2020, of which an anticipated 4,490 will be new jobs due to economic expansion. In addition to new jobs, as many as 25,000 forestry job openings are projected throughout the province over the next 10 years, as existing workers retire.


Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour -

"The FIRST pilot project has already proven effective, with all graduates successfully employed as heavy equipment operators or log and chip drivers in the forest industry. Our investment with CILA is addressing the need for skilled workers in Prince George and surrounding communities, and the additional funding announced today will help ensure that the demand for skilled workers in the region continues to be met."

John Rustad, Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry and MLA for Nechako Lakes -

"These are tough times in the global economy...but the Province is doing comparatively well thanks to our BC Jobs Plan. And to keep on track, we are confronting a major challenge - the growing skilled labour shortage. The Forest Industry Readiness Skills Training is getting workers ready to meet the demands of the new economy. The bottom line is clear: simply put, this training means more jobs for the North."

MaryAnne Arcand, executive director of the Central Interior Loggers Association -

"We are very pleased with the initial success of the FIRST logger program, from government funding support, industry and contractor support in hiring our graduates, to the students themselves for choosing a career path in the forest industry and taking the training. The next phase of the program will see another 30 drivers and equipment operators going into the harvesting sector in the Burns Lake, Houston and Smithers area, where they are badly needed."

Quick Facts:

  • The Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement (LMA) funds programs and services for employed people who are low-skilled and for unemployed individuals who are not eligible for Employment Insurance.
  • As a direct result of federal LMA funding, thousands of British Columbians are receiving training that will advance their careers, assist in securing new employment and ultimately improve the social and economic outcomes of individuals in B.C. and Canada.
  • Between 2008 and 2012, the LMA has provided training to approximately 3,400 individuals in the Cariboo Region.
  • The current agreement will expire on March 31, 2014 and B.C. is preparing to enter discussions with the federal government to renew this important agreement and ensure our province has the skilled workforce required to support long-term labour market needs and economic growth.
  • During the month of November, the B.C. government is asking for ideas from citizens on the topic of building a skilled workforce. You can contribute your ideas, comment or make a suggestion at

Learn More:

Central Interior Logging Association and FIRST program:

O'Brien Training Ltd.:

Forest Sector Strategy for B.C.:

WorkBC skills training programs:

Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan: 

Industry Training Authority:

Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement information:


Media Relations
Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour
250 356-8177

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