NWMO shares project workforce development in South Bruce

·8 min read

SOUTH BRUCE – The Community Liaison Committee (CLC) received the results of several studies related to the proposed Deep Geological Repository (DGR) in South Bruce at a special meeting held via Zoom on May 19.

Dave Rushton, project manager for the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Team at the Municipality of South Bruce, and Allan Webster, director of regulatory affairs and environmental assessment at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), made the presentation summarizing the findings of the Labour Baseline, Workforce Development, and Local Hiring Effects studies.

The labour baseline study, conducted by the NWMO and peer-reviewed by Deloitte, reflects on two of the guiding principles set up by the Municipality of South Bruce (MSB):

#10 - “The NWMO will identify the potential for any positive and negative socio-economic impacts of the Project on South Bruce and surrounding communities and what benefits will contribute to mitigating any specific risks.”

#20 - “The NWMO, in consultation with the municipality, will commit to implementing a local employment and training strategy with the objective of ensuring that the majority of employees of the project are located within South Bruce and surrounding communities.”

A note to readers said, “It is important to note that these community studies (developed collaboratively by the NWMO and the MSB) being investigated at this time are not the formal or final baseline or effects studies that will be part of the Impact Assessment (IA). Those studies will be completed at a later date if the project is located in the area. However, these current studies will inform the effects of studies that will be initiated at a later date.”

The framework for these studies looked at three areas: regional, local, and core.

South Bruce issued a press release after the meeting that said, “The Regional Study Area (a broad area encompassing seven counties and Waterloo Region) has a sufficient supply of labour to meet the needs of the project. The local labour supply also has a high concentration of the types of jobs which the project would require, except for mining which would likely be sourced from other parts of the province.”

When asked about the workers and where they would be housed, Webster stated that there would be no man camps (temporary shelters usually consisting of trailers and set up near a mining project.)

Webster said, “So there won’t be a man camp during construction, there’s lots of temporary residences available in the broader study area for people to reside in while they’re here. And the numbers of people that were looking at here are not particularly substantive from that perspective, either.”

The South Bruce Nuclear Exploration, Project highlighted the labour and workforce studies in a document titled Project Labour and Workforce Effects:

- South Bruce is growing moderately due to pressure from the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Baby Boomers make up a large portion of the community. As they retire, they will need to be replaced in the workforce.

A question from the audience about this particular highlight was asked, “How are you going to help seniors on a fixed income remain in the community?”

Rushton answered, “I think that’s going to be addressed in our next study on the housing study. But briefly, I think if you develop a different mix of housing, and if they can sell their four-bedroom house for a high price and buy a lower price, two-bedroom house, that makes it very affordable for them to stay in the community.”

- There is enough labour supply in the region to meet the needs of the project. Some mining trades may need to be sourced from northern Ontario. As the project evolves, new skill sets may be required.

- South Bruce businesses are competing for the limited labour pool. There is a gap in local workforce skills that impacts recruiting and retaining talent to meet industry needs.

- As businesses grow and new businesses locate in South Bruce, they will also need access to a labour pool with appropriate skills.

- South Bruce’s location gives it access to post-secondary graduates from varying fields of study. Attracting and retaining these graduates will require improving infrastructure such as transportation, housing options, and lifestyle amenities.

- We will need workforce development strategies to develop a pipeline of skilled workers to fill local jobs and meet the project’s needs. The project’s Centre of Expertise may be an opportunity to help with this effort. Additional strategies will be needed to support local businesses to compete for skilled workers.

“It is recognized early in the research that this opportunity will generate local employment across all skill levels. Additionally, with new federal initiatives centred on training and skills development, South Bruce is favourably positioned to maximize its local labour market capacity and provide the local workforce with increased career opportunities.”

The studies include three phases to the project: pre-construction (2023 to 2032), construction (2033 to 2042), and operations (2043 and beyond; does not include monitoring and decommissioning phases).

MSB prepared projections based on with and without the project.

The press release said, “As businesses grow and new businesses locate in the area, they will need access to a skilled labour force. The studies acknowledged that transportation, housing options, and amenities are needed to attract and retain graduates with the right skills.”

The presentation also shared insights into how a skilled workforce can be developed and maintained for the project and existing local businesses.

The Workforce Development Study presented an “Incubate and Cultivate” approach which involves customizing training and education programs to align with project needs. Ultimately, it would engage industry, union, and college partners to work together to increase the supply of trades that will be in high demand.

The presenters were asked, “Will there be a commitment to higher or preference given to Bruce County residents and Saugeen Ojibway Nation members when it comes to filling these positions?”

Webster said, “Yes, to a degree. And particularly we can look at an employment opportunity, efforts involving Indigenous communities. That’s a standard thing that is done throughout Canada to make sure the Indigenous communities have the opportunity to take positions.”

The labour baseline study said, “The NWMO will independently engage with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation to understand how they wish to evaluate the potential negative effects and benefits that the project may bring to their communities.”

“In terms of people who reside in the area that’s a little more challenging,” Webster added. “We can’t necessarily prefer someone who just happens to live in South Bruce or, you know, an equally or better-qualified candidate.

“What we will be looking for is the best person for the job. And we’re hoping through that Incubate and Cultivate approach that we can give people the opportunities to be that person who has the best chance to get the position.”

The study managers explained the project’s impacts on local employment and existing businesses. For example, in South Bruce, companies face workforce shortages, an absence of appropriate skills, and competition with employers in larger centres.

As businesses grow and new companies locate in the area, they will need access to a skilled labour force. The studies acknowledged that transportation, housing options, and amenities must attract and retain graduates with the right skills.

Protect South Bruce/No DGR responded to the first study in an email to Midwestern Newspapers with several questions:

“How do they come up with the projected numbers of employees whom they claim will choose to live in South Bruce? They claim that there is enough labour supply in the region to meet the needs of the project except some mining labour may need to be sourced in. The DGR is the construction of a mine, so that will result in a large part of the projected workforce that won’t be available to local residents. In these results, there is no mention of any negative impacts such as loss of agriculture businesses or the inability of the local businesses to compete for employees.

“We are concerned with the way that the peer review studies are being conducted. GHD is conducting studies for the NWMO and the municipality, so is it a conflict of interest for them to review studies done by consulting companies who will in turn be reviewing their studies?

“Who is representing the interest of the community residents? We have the NWMO, NWMO-funded nuclear exploration team, NWMO-funded municipal office staff, the NWMO-funded CLC that has only shared one presentation over the past 10 years that has not promoted the DGR and the local MPP, who happens to be the Ontario Minister of Agricultural saying it is not her issue because it is a federal project. Who is looking out for the residents who have concerns about this project?”

South Bruce Willing to Listen also responded to a request for feedback on the meeting, saying, “We are pleased to see the study results being shared with the public, to ensure we are all given the information we need to make a decision on whether or not we host this project.

“We encourage all community members to tune into the upcoming CLC meetings to hear more of the study results.”

The CLC press release concluded, “It was suggested that a local hiring strategy specific to South Bruce be developed to maximize project-related employment and at the same time, ensure the ongoing needs of other businesses are met.”

The entire presentation is available in the CLC Agenda package. You can find copies of the studies and peer reviews at www.southbruce.ca/Studies. In addition, a summary document has been mailed to community members, which will be the practice following the upcoming meetings to help inform the public about the studies.

The CLC’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, June 2. The presentation’s theme will be Urban Growth, and it will share the results of the Housing Needs and Demand Analysis, and Land Use studies.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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