As more workers head over to work at the Muskrat Falls construction site, some local business owners in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are hoping wage subsidies will help them keep staff.

The Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership is offering wage subsidies to encourage local businesses to hire trainees from its program.

Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership

The Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership is offering local companies a 50 to 60 per cent wage subsidy to hire its graduates. (CBC)

Mike Hickey, with Hickey Construction, said he's been struggling to keep some staff, losing a third of his workers to the mega-project, because he can't compete with the steep wages Nalcor offers.

"Over across the river, the average paying job is up to $40 an hour, and that's before benefits and everything else, so it's very, very hard to compete with," said Hickey.

The partnership is offering to pay 50 to 60 per cent of a graduate's hourly wage for three months, on the condition that workers stay employed at the full rate.

Not just about 'big bucks'

The subsidy could help lighten the load for local businesses, but Hickey said with salaries being so steep across the river, it might not help in the wage battle.

Carol Best Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership

Carol Best says the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership is hoping to get all of its graduates hired permanently. (CBC)

"It just wouldn't be fair if I paid a person to learn how to drive a truck at Nalcor's wages of about $40 an hour, and I'm paying the guys who I have working for me for the past ten years $25 an hour. I mean, imagine — you think we've got problems now?"

Carol Best, who works with the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership, said the main goal is to get their trainees hired on a permanent basis.

Best said not all their trainees can expect jobs on Muskrat Falls, and should consider local work even if it pays less than Nalcor's project.

"They [local employers] can't compete with the high wages, but they are offering this employment and valuable skills development and hours toward apprenticeship and those things," she said.

"People have to look beyond the instant gratification of the big bucks across the river for a short period of time. These are great jobs locally, too."

The group said there are still some people looking for work in the area not related to the Muskrat Falls project.