I just finished a podcast while shovelling my driveway on the growth prospects for the nuclear industry over the next decade or so. Apparently, there are 104 nuclear power projects in the U.S. at some stage of the regulatory process and several that are almost ‘shovel ready’.
The guy making the presentation said there is an emerging labour crisis in the industry. Not just engineers and technical workers but also nuclear welders and other tradespersons certified to work on nuclear projects.
We talk about a energy hub or cluster. What is NBCC Saint John doing in this area? How about UNB? Do we have a plan to pump out hundreds of skilled nuclear industry workers over the next few years?
Astute readers will point out that I am being inconsistent. They will say I have strenuously advised against offering training programs for jobs that aren’t in New Brunswick. I called this being the labour market incubator for Ontario’s workforce.
And I still hold to that view – except in the area of migrant work. The large project construction industry is transient. It moves from project to project and the workers have a home base. That home base could be New Brunswick and they could be sending six figure salaries back here to be spent in the local economy. If there is going to be a migrant nuclear construction industry workforce, why not have some of it based out of New Brunswick?
The residual economic benefit from these large energy projects (LNG, etc.) is limited relative to the upfront capital investment. A refinery, for example, costs billions but ends up only creating a few hundred permanent jobs. Those same billions spent in life sciences, for example, would leverage several thousand jobs (if you saw an $8 billion investment in life sciences you would immediately rival Toronto in that area).
Creating an energy industry training industry or research industry or value-added services industry or energy-related ICT – these would be longer term sustainable jobs.