British Columbia

Help wanted in Campbell River as economy booms

Film industry training launched at North Island College to serve growing labour demands as job openings increase in traditional and emerging sectors.

Career fair highlights shortage of skilled workers as film, forestry, mining rebound

Job growth on the north Island is due in part to the reopening of the Nyrstar zinc and copper mine at Myra Falls, near Campbell River. (CHEK News)

A labour shortage on north Vancouver Island has businesses scrambling to find qualified employees.

In a region long accustomed to news about job losses and resource industry shutdowns, the reopening of the mine at Myra Falls and new facilities for the film industry are now getting the headlines. 

Chris Callanan of the North Island Employment Foundations Society said the shortage of workers has prompted 40 companies to sign up for a job fair in Campbell River on Tuesday.   

The job boom is in contrast to a report issued earlier this year by Island Health, based on 2015 data, which had higher unemployment rates for residents of the Campbell River Local Health Area compared to the rest of the province. 

Callanan said, since 2015, job growth in the area has increased by 1,000 positions. 

"We can see that all sectors are up," Callanan told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

Film, technology, forest industry growth

He said the job growth includes resource sectors such as forestry and aquaculture, as well as film and technology. 

The growth of film production on the central and north Island prompted a Parksville businessman this month to announce the creation of a film production studio with three sound stages.

Meanwhile, North Island College launched a pilot program in TV and film crew training, which began this month at the Campbell River campus.

The program trains students for the roles of production assistant, lighting technician, set grip and carpentry or set production.

Gaffer/lighting instructor John Helme, who has worked on more than 20 films, said he is pleased to pass along what he has learned during his three decades in the industry.

The new North Island College program in TV and film crew training includes lighting, set production, construction and grip training. Seen here is instructor Jeff Smith. (North Island College)

Helme said the steady pace of film production on the Island needs an ongoing supply of workers because the Island continually loses talent that is recruited to work in Vancouver.

Students will graduate from the North Island courses with qualifications to work on unionized jobs, he said.

"You'd be able to walk onto a film set and be familiar with the gear," Helme said.

"It's a heavily subsidized government course," he said. "So it's cheap."

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island