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Mill tradespeople and technicians will be able to receive foundational skills to start their own business, and be eligible to receive funding for start up costs

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The B.C. government is investing just under $3 million into Hubspace for a new program to provide entrepreneurship training and coaching to mill tradespeople and technicians.

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Hubspace, the Prince George-based non-profit that helps the region’s technology and business community grow and innovate, hosted the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Sheila Malcolmson, at their office Friday morning to make the announcement.

“The forestry industry and communities are facing challenges, so we are supporting those affected by helping them land stable, good jobs and move away from the old boom-and-bust cycles,” Malcolmson said. “People who want to build their own businesses can get training and in-person supports through our funding, so they won’t have to face that process alone.”

The province will be granting $2.95 million to Hubspace for the creation of the new Build Your Own Future program, which will help provide foundational business skills to mill employees in order to start and grow a business.

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The program will include training in finance, marketing and sales, operations, project management, health and safety, customer service, leadership, and diversity. On top of offering participants support for their business startups, those who complete training are eligible for a $5,000 grant to cover qualified business startup expenses.

Carla Qualtrough, the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion also weighed in on the matter, saying that the federal government is there to help people returning to work. She added that the grant will help make sure that forestry workers can stay in Prince George, and give them the tools to do so.

“Thanks to the Province of B.C., the grant will allow us to support the entire province in areas affected by mill closures and curtailments,” said Mary Mytting, executive director of Hubspace. “Our Build Your Own Future program offers an innovative approach to supporting mill tradespeople’s and technicians’ transition into business ownership, keeping them in their communities and their families together.”

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In a press release, the province says that the grant is in addition to $185 million that the government has invested in its latest budget to support people affected by weakening markets and changes in the forestry sector. The B.C. government says it will continue to seek innovative ways to support workers and communities affected by forestry downturns.

The grant was born out of findings from the province’s rapid response teams that it sent to Prince George in January following the announcement of the closure of the pulp line at the Canfor Pulp and Paper facility. The teams identified transition supports for mill tradespeople and technicians interested in opening businesses in their community as an unmet need.

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Chuck Leblanc, president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, Len Shankel Local 9 (Prince George), the union which oversaw many of the employees affected by the closure of the local pulp line, echoed sentiments Qualtrough.

“The PPWC Len Shankel Local 9 supports the Build Your Own Future program, as it will enable many of our members to remain here in Prince George with their families,” he said.

The grant money stems from the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement. Under the agreement, the Province receives more than $300 million each year to fund employment services and supports, including those provided through the 102 WorkBC centres throughout B.C.

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