Recently, it was announced that the restart of a northern Ontario sawmill in early 2016 was successful after Kenora Forest Products (KFP) partnered with the local Aboriginal community in an effort to hire and train workers locally. Kenora Forest Products is a subsidiary of Prendiville Industries, based in Manitoba – a manufacturer of various wood products for the construction, building, and mining industries.
As the sawmill restarted, managers at KFP knew they had to hire many employees to fill the positions and that its commitment to hiring Aboriginal workers would require training and safety courses. The company committed to hiring a 30% Aboriginal workforce; however, it passed that goal with a staff that was more than 50% Aboriginal. KFP said much of their success with staffing could be attributed to partnering with provincial health and safety association, WSN (Workplace Safety North), and local Aboriginal organizations.
Some of the community partners KFP worked with in preparing workers for positions at the sawmill included Ozhibii’igewigamig Employment and Training Centre, WSN, and Seven Generations Education Institute. Ne-Chee Friendship Center and Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong (a partnership that comprises Ozhibii’igewigamig Employment) contributed to funding for pre-employment training and travel assistance when required, and worked with managers at KFP to get a clear understanding of the skills required of employees so that job candidates could be recruited, coached, and prepared. Some of the areas of focus in preparing candidates included job expectations, resume writing, and interview skills.
Health and safety training courses were decided by KFP managers and WSN, so employees could be properly prepared for the sawmill environment. Some of the courses included Ergonomics, Lockout Awareness, Safe Use of Machinery, and Occupational Health and Safety training.
In the end, there are about 110 job positions at the sawmill today, and after restarting the mill in early 2016, it was necessary to add a second shift in the planer and sawmill to keep up with production by the end of that same year. Always refreshing to hear a success story!
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