Attraction and Retention Backgrounder

Highlights of the OBAC Attraction and Retention StrategyBaby.jpg

The Context

The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) was formed in 2005 with a purpose, “To work to ensure sustainable development and resiliency for the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition region”.

With financial support from the provincial government OBAC is led by a Board of Directors of the region’s Mayors and Regional District Chairs. OBAC is working with its member communities, First Nations, all levels of government, industry and sector representatives, academic institutions, and allied partner organizations to develop regional diversification plans that build resilient communities during and after the pine beetle epidemic. OBAC is putting forward long-term strategies that are designed to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

The Attraction and Retention Strategy is the fifth of the twelve priority topic strategies to be developed and proposes recommendations and actions that can be taken by various partners and level of governments to support a diversified economy in the OBAC region over the ten year horizon. The development of the Attraction and Retention Strategy incorporates learning from the sector specific strategies that OBAC has been developing and, has been guided by a working group of people with a variety of community, sector and specialist perspectives and areas of expertise on social development. The strategy has also been reviewed by many others with specialized insight into the region’s and communities’ opportunities to retain residents and attract new residents. Additional research and consultation was conducted by a consulting team that facilitated the working group’s efforts. UNBC’s Community Development Institute has also made a significant contribution to the development of this strategy. The strategy presents a vision of how the region’s communities can attract and retain a diverse range of people over the next ten year period. The vision is supported by 4 objectives, 5 recommendations and over 30 proposed actions. This Attraction and Retention Strategy also works closely in concert with the vision and objectives, recommendations and proposed actions presented in the Community and Social Services and Supports Strategy.

The prosperity of the OBAC region has long been reliant on its timber resources. However the mountain pine beetle epidemic is expected to diminish opportunities in the traditional forest sector for several decades. OBAC is developing a number of industrial sector strategies; these include forestry, alternative energy, mining and mineral exploration, tourism and agriculture, which are designed to diversify the region’s economy and create more resilient communities. As well as these industrial strategies, it is also necessary to develop a strategy designed to attract and retain the workers and other community members needed to develop a diversified economy and resilient communities. Communities that retain and attract a diverse range of people remain desirable places to live and underpin the ability to transition successfully to a more diverse economy.

Strategy Vision & Objectives

The communities of the OBAC region envision a future where the region’s communities are recognized as desirable places to live, learn, work, play, retire and invest. The assets of the region, including its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities are well known and appreciated by current and prospective residents. The region’s young people are provided good opportunities to train and work in the communities. Its resources support diverse business and employment options and the needed work force is available to realize these opportunities. Through the implementation of the strategy this vision and the objectives presented below can be achieved. The four objectives which provide more detail on how to achieve this vision are:

Objective 1. Diversify the region’s economy and provide excellent employment opportunities;

Objective 2. Attract and retain the skilled workers and professionals needed by business, government, and service providers;

Objective 3. Provide improved opportunities for the region’s young people and other residents to train, work and live in the communities; and,

Objective 4. Develop synergistic and cooperative opportunities for attraction and retention across all communities in the region.

Strategy Recommendations & Actions

The recommendations and proposed actions together answer the question “who needs to do what, when and why” to achieve the objectives and vision. The multiple proposed actions will be the basis for action planning in the next step beyond the adoption of this strategy. OBAC is confident that if these five recommendations and the proposed actions in the strategy are implemented, we will come much closer to achieving the objectives and the overall vision.

Recommendation 1.

Continue to diversify and strengthen the region’s economy.

Recommendation 2.

Market the region’s considerable assets which make it a desirable place to live, work, play, and invest.

Recommendation 3.

Enable the region’s young people and other residents to access training, obtain jobs and facilitate growth in self-employment opportunities.

Recommendation 4.

Further identify and develop the services and amenities required to attract and retain young people, seniors, skilled workers, professionals and others.

Recommendation 5.

Develop and implement improved service delivery models to better meet health care and education needs

There are over 30 actions proposed across these recommendations that can be taken to enable OBAC region communities to retain existing residents and attract new residents as part of the long term effort to build resilient communities. Selected proposed actions where priority opportunities exist include:

  • Implement OBAC’s industrial sector strategies.
  • Establish a Regional Economic Development Office.
  • Ensure that municipalities have support from the province during periods of sudden economic downturns.
  • Develop a regional marketing program, which includes an “Omineca Brand” that highlights the region’s varied work-life balance opportunities and attractive lifestyle assets which could be used by employers in conjunction with their specific recruitments efforts.
  • Ensure that students in the region are provided excellent secondary school opportunities which are relevant both to them and their communities.
  • Develop and implement community employment strategies which will provide youth and others in the region with relevant information on training and employment opportunities and assist them in finding employment in the region.
  • Identify the human resource and skilled worker needs of existing and emerging employers in the region and inform secondary, post-secondary education and training programs with present and future employer needs.
  • Develop community level youth retention strategies.
  • Assess needs and further develop the services and amenities required by the region’s growing senior population.
  • Develop a strategy designed to improve the delivery of education and health care across the region and which utilizes modern communications technology.
  • Ensure that health and education funding and services will remain in place for up to up to five years following major economic downturns.
  • Create a “fair labour market” which provides employers incentives to take on first time workers, recent graduates of secondary and post-secondary institutions and apprentices.
  • Provide information and support for the development of self-employment opportunities.
  • Develop and implement a Regional Amenities Strategy that facilitates cross regional collaboration in attraction and retention and uses the amenities in Smithers and Prince George to better position the region’s smaller communities to attract and retain people. (e.g. the “two hours from service” best practices approach).

Next Steps

This strategy tells us the “what, who, when and why”, the next step is to determine “how to and how much” it will take to achieve the goal. The immediate next steps include:

  • Following release of the strategy, bring together senior staff from relevant government agencies to work with OBAC to quickly develop a Attraction and Retention Action Plan that presents details on “how to and how much” for implementation
  • Work with senior governments and other implementation allies to enable implementation of the Attraction and Retention Action Plan and integrate actions across strategies.