"When we spoke with mayors across the Peace Region of British Columbia, they made it very clear to us that we needed to make sure that we look after the interests of local residents first," he says. "Once those positions are all taken and we don't really have any other individuals in the Peace Region, we'll look elsewhere."
The program is intended to work with individuals from communities in northeast B.C. that currently face barriers. Bell explains those barriers could be anything from educational issues, to needing daycare, as well as people on income assistance and employment insurance. The program is designed to take an individualized approach, working with each participant one-on-one to determine what they need in order to take some of these jobs on, as well as stick with them over the long-term.
"The key to this program is to provide consistent support," he explains. "Not just short-term intervention, but looking for long-term support that will provide the level that they need to maintain employment over a longer period of time."
That individualized approach means every case will require different help from the province. Minister Bell says each person will be treated as an individual, and the government will provide the services they need in order to find work.
"Each individual's different, so it's hard to be prescriptive in terms of what they might need. Each individual will be treated exactly like that, as an individual. We'll make sure that we provide the resources necessary to help gain employment."
When the idea of shipping welfare recipients to northeast B.C. was first discussed in March, politicians across the region expressed concern about where these individuals were going to be housed. Mayor Lori Ackerman said Fort St. John is already coping with a housing shortage and strained social programs, while Fort Nelson Mayor Bill Streeper said there's a zero vacancy rate in his community. Although as specific plan hasn't been announced yet, Bell says he is working with Minister Responsible for Housing Rich Coleman collaboratively.
"One of the biggest challenges we're facing in the Peace Region in terms of the concept of bringing in people from outside the region is housing," he admits. "We recognize and acknowledge housing is a challenge and we're looking for solutions for that.
He expects to be able to talk more about this issue publicly in the coming months. He also adds that the people the program is looking to help aren't transient workers, but people who are "looking to make a new home" in the north.
The pilot program is initially looking for 250 people, that will be dealt with "one individual at a time". Anyone interested in the Job Match program is encouraged to visit their local Work B.C. office, where they can be directed into the program.