Woodtech courts NIC for ‘niche’ Alberni campus

Officials hope that a new protocol signed between Woodtech 21 and North Island College will attract new blood to Alberni's forest industry

Officials hope that a new protocol signed between Woodtech 21 and North Island College will breathe new life and attract new blood to the Valley’s forest industry.

Spokesperson Gillian Trumper announced Monday at the city council meeting that the protocol was actually signed in July.

The memorandum sets out how the two organizations will work together on common issues.

In particular, Trumper said she hopes they can work together to establish a series of programs dealing with forestry and wood. “This corresponds with a need for core programs in it,” she said. “It’s not just about cutting down trees and making two-by-fours. It’s about what you can extract.”

A niche campus isn’t unusual, she said. North Island College in Campbell River has aquaculture and mining studies. And the Courtenay campus has trades programs.

“This campus should be the centre of excellence with forestry for North Island College,” Trumper said.

Woodtech officials had an initial meeting with new NIC president John Bowman and have another scheduled in two weeks, she said. “He worked with colleges in the north that aren’t the centre of the main college like ours,” she said.

Trumper also wants to get college and forestry officials on the same page. The meetings would better enable the college to deliver specific training needs industry has, she said.

Woodtech has put up $5,000 to being establishing a forestry training initiative in the Valley, and hopes the college will match that, Trumper said.

The initiative would keep young people in the Valley earning good wages and put more kids in schools, she said.

Catalyst officials have even had cursory meetings with NIC about training initiatives, Trumper said.

New blood and not old bones are needed to fill positions that are set to open up in a revitalized forest industry, Coun. Jack McLeman said.

Young people aren’t entering the forest industry, and that’s causing serious problems, McLeman said. “People aren’t retiring. Or retired people are being called back to work,” he said. A lot of fatalities are occurring as a result, usually ones involving logging trucks, he added.

“The present forest industry as a place to work, we don’t need what we have right now,” McLeman said.

NIC officials are eager to discuss forestry initiatives in Port Alberni.

“The college is looking forward to working with Wood Tech 21 and others in the Alberni Valley to move forward on the development of a business plan in support of the Culture of Wood Institute,” the spokesperson said.

NIC officials have met with stakeholders and industry leaders about the need for forestry programming and pre-employment training at NIC Alberni over the past year.

NIC will participate in the development of the business plan for the Culture of Wood Institute, and will contribute to the initiative.

But until a training need or initiative is specifically identified, the college won’t match Woodtech’s $5,000 stake, the spokesperson said.

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