More than 1,000 job seekers lined up outside a Prince George hotel Monday, hoping for work on the Site C dam project. Many people waited in line for hours simply to hand their resume to contractors building the $1.75 billion dam project in northeastern B.C.
The job seekers included grey-haired tradesmen, young men in sweatshirts, college graduates and First Nations youth.
Jesse VanTunen waited in line with his resume in a leather folder, surprised by how many others were in line.
"Shocking. It's amazing there's so many people out here right now," VanTunen said, before applying for work as a heavy equipment operator.
"I just hope he can get a job."
Tamara Kemble of Prince George accompanied her husband, who lost his electrician job after a decade of work in Fort St. John, B.C., and Alberta.
"He's lost his oil patch job, and we need income," said Kemble. "It is tough not to be able to support your family and lose your medical benefits. I just hope he can get a job."
Bertha Pierre drove six hours from Moricetown, B.C., to bring her resume to the Site C Job Fair. "I'm excited," she said. "I do need to provide for my child, and the jobs nowadays are so scarce."
Some job seekers came all the way from Alberta, including Curt Kreberg of Grande Prairie. "I'm a sandblaster and I got laid off summer of last year. It sucks really bad."
As plain clothes security guards kept an eye on the orderly crowd, a dozen protesters stood quietly nearby, holding placards opposing Site C.
Job seeker Victor Alec admitted he wasn't sure the controversial dam project was a good idea. "I don't know how beneficial it is. It is a big area to be flooded out." Still, Alec hoped to be hired on. "I'm hoping I squeeze in there somewhere."
Despite the controversy and pending court cases, BC Hydro's Site C job fairs have been very popular. "These are good jobs," said B.C. Hydro spokesperson Bob Gammer. "People who are unemployed want good jobs."
Last week, 3,300 people dropped off resumes at several other job fairs in northeastern B.C. towns. In Fort St John, 1,500 people waited in a three hour line-up to apply for work.
Once inside the job fair, there were no job interviews or job offers. Some applicants took to social media to complain about the long wait to drop off a resume that could have been e-mailed.
"Speed dating" with contractors
"It's a little like speed dating," said Gammer. "You get two or three or four minutes with the contractors."
As BC Hydro faces criticism for failing to hire enough British Columbians, Gammer says these fairs put "local people in front of those contractors with those resumes."