Port Alberni partnership focuses on food security

NIC instructor Victoria Lake (left) looks on as students Olivia Shewish (centre) and Charley Frow (right) in the Seafood Processing Training Program measure oysters. Students learn about food safety and forklift training, as well as shellfish and finfish cleaning, safety and processing. Both students have now finished their training and are working for Canadian Seafood Processing Incorporated.

A partnership between the City of Port Alberni, NIC, the Port Alberni Port Authority and the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) is addressing the skilled labour shortage and food security issues in Port Alberni.

The eight-week Seafood Processing Training Program operates out of Dock+, a shared 17,500 square foot space with a commercial kitchen and rental space for small businesses at Port Alberni’s Fishermen’s Harbour.

Students gain hands-on experience processing finfish and shellfish and connect with a variety of local employers in an industry “desperately in need of skilled labour,” said Victoria Lake, NIC instructor and Quality Manager for Canadian Seafood Processing. 

The program builds capacity for local food security initiatives – efforts which have become increasingly critical during the pandemic.

“This new partnership will help train people for good jobs in our local industry, and it also ensures that Port Alberni seafood is delivered to market,” said Mid-Island Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne. “This helps us showcase the high-quality products our local businesses have to offer, and I’m thrilled to see investments that prioritize people and our economy.”

NIC developed the program in consultation with the ACRD, the Port Alberni Port Authority, the ACRD and City of Port Alberni, which received Community Workforce Response Grant funding to deliver the programs. The response grants also supported an NIC Food Processing and Production program, developed with the City and Regional District that launched in Spring 2022.

“Previously a lot of seafood was being exported outside of the Alberni Valley region because of the lack of processing facilities and a lack of trained workers for seafood suppliers,” said Heather Shobe, Agriculture Support Coordinator, ACRD. “The Seafood Processing Training Program will help to keep seafood in the Alberni Valley to be processed and be distributed in the community, as well as allow local businesses to expand their operations.”

The City of Port Alberni’s Economic Development Manager, Pat Deakin, said “The training aligns with the City’s economic goals in food security, food safety and food supply. We’re grateful to have NIC as a partner in the program, as the Seafood Processing Training Program is essential to the success of the Dock+ facility by training workers for the local businesses that use the Dock+ facility.”

Funding for the Seafood Processing Training was provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement. Since the beginning of the pandemic, NIC has developed more than 36 skills training programs in partnership with local governments, First Nations and community organizations across Vancouver Island and the Central BC Coast. These Community Workforce Response Grant funded projects helped students enter the workforce or change careers.

For more information about community partnership programs, contact Bob Haugen, Director, Continuing Education & Training at Bob.Haugen@nic.bc.ca.

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