Let's get serious about jobs

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
January 2, 2018 - 6:41am

KAMLOOPS — With the arrival of the New Year and Ajax now relegated to the news highlight reels of 2017, I can think of no better time for Kamloops to start getting serious about jobs and meaningful employment.


However, let’s start afresh and stop with the poor-me comments that predict we’re all doomed to sling burgers at minimum wage.  Let’s also have an honest look at skill sets.


If you have a skill that is not in demand here and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future, you have to make a decision.  You can complain about the lack of work here, create your own work, travel to where there is work or get a new skill.  


I realize for some this may sound harsh but wishing things would change and complaining about it not changing is a recipe for failure.


Put another way. If your lifelong dream is to build skyscrapers and you know Kamloops will not be building any skyscrapers, than you need to move or commute to where they’re always building skyscrapers.  


Complaining to local politicians or the media that no office tower developers want to build here because Kamloops is not skyscraper friendly is, as some have discovered over the past seven years, ignoring the realities and risks of the employment marketplace.


So what’s needed?  How do we transition from the 2017 fingers crossed job planning approach to something more viable, lasting and realistic?  


For the construction trades, you’ve got a few good years ahead of you.  The new hospital addition, BC Lotteries and the KPMG office building will keep everyone busy for a couple of years.  For those looking for something that might last longer than a year or two though, it might require an attitude change.  One that requires getting involved in creating the future you want instead of passively waiting for someone else to take care of you.


For instance, consider our rather outdated approach to the technology sector.  The one that for the most part ignores trades, the resource sector, agriculture and alternative energies.  


The dream of every town is to use the tech sector as their economic saviour. Yet many a town administrator, educator, politician or chamber of commerce type that I’ve talked to over the years seems unable to accurately define what that looks like for their town. Many talk of app development as being the holy grail of economic redemption.  Others work at developing a plan to attract a major tech player to set up shop.


So why not let those other towns continue to flail and fail at the tech game while we roll up our sleeves and look at the tech sector as just one of many tools at our disposal.


If we like mining so much why don’t we invent, create, build and sell the technologies that will be the future of mining?  The development and manufacturing centre for all things to do with mining.


Kamloops could be known around the world as the leader in mining technologies. You’d employ every skill level we have including; electricians, fabricators, mechanics, truck drivers, general labourers, designers, programmers, engineers, scientists, marketing, management and support staff.


These are well paying, Monday to Friday jobs in Kamloops that will last as long as mining does.


The University of North Dakota did much the same thing but focussed on alternative energies.  Located in Grand Forks, ND, it’s a city of only 57,000 with a university about our size that has become a world leader in the development and export of green energy technologies.  They build prototypes, test and validate technologies, put together major start-up financing packages for entrepreneurs and are known and respected around the world.


Of course this means we have to stop whining about what we don’t have and blaming others for all of our employment problems.  It will not be as easy as driving a truck in an open pit mine but those jobs are available elsewhere and if that’s what you want, move there.  For those who want to stay and create something long lasting though, now is your opportunity.