After more than 200 workers lost their jobs at Catalyst tiskʷat Mill, North Island College (NIC) has offered free film industry training to workers beginning next year.
The program will be offering training in grip, lighting and set construction positions beginning on Jan. 4 and finishing on Feb. 24. The pilot program involves an online portion and an in-person portion on a film set in Vancouver, and funding is provided by the provincial and federal governments as a workforce expansion program.
The training will also include podcasts and modules to meet other regulations in training. In-person training will be with a partnership with Martini Studios, giving them an opportunity to learn how things work on a film set.
The program will give successful participants their first aid, WHIMS and a micro-credential, allowing students to start getting experience in the field.
Vancouver Island North Film Commission commissioner Joan Miller says the program is designed to get them going to work as many have lost their jobs.
“When we heard the terrible news of the layoffs over in Powell River the college did reach out to me and asked if we would try to expand our communication in that area because there would be so many people that potentially with their skills and experience would be a perfect fit for the training we’re doing,” said Miller.
She said the film industry is made up of tradespeople underneath the surface, including electricians, contractors and construction workers. The positions they are offering training for include grips, set lighting and set construction and all those positions require a background in normal trades jobs.
“For a mill, there’s a lot of people there who are electricians, there’s a lot of people there who are pipefitters,” said Miller.
She says office workers can also be useful in the workings of the film industry and the program will give students all the tools they need to go into work.
“Right now, everyone is collaborating to find a new pathway for people to come in,” she said. “It is contract gigs; your reputation gets you your next job.”
While Miller says the industry is growing rapidly and things have changed in the way people get work, workers would likely have to leave Powell River if they wanted full-time employment.
“But that’s not going to give a Powell River person employment, no,” she said. “But Vancouver Island has really taken off with productions back to back to back.”
She said workers would be able to get more work in Vancouver if they chose or go from job to job on the Island as smaller companies like to hire local people who may not need hotels to stay in.
People who are considered for the program are people with more background experience, according to Miller, who says it’s difficult to “start from scratch” with a program like this one.
Miller said the demand for content is higher than ever before because of COVID, and she hopes the participants of the program will be able to get back into work in the expanding world.
Those interested in the program can contact North Island College for more information.