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No Country for Old Miners

How SaskPower abandoning coal miners could devastate the Estevan economy and doom local economic development efforts

The federal government and SaskPower have done their best to kill coal in Estevan. They may yet succeed. Much of the focus is on what will replace coal; wind, solar, SMRs (CCS has been rejected by the powers that be in Regina) but what is to become of our coal miners? The skills and experience that these workers have, is difficult to replace. If coal miners and their families decided to move to find jobs elsewhere, the impacts on the community will be devastating. A skilled workforce is critical to economic development. In fact, it is one of the most critical factors that contribute to a thriving economy. A skilled workforce can provide a competitive advantage for a region by attracting new businesses and investment, increasing productivity, driving innovation and by helping existing businesses to grow and innovate. Here are some reasons why we must fight to keep our skilled coal miners in Estevan: Attracting Business: Companies are more likely to invest in locations that offer a skilled workforce. Companies need employees with the right skills to stay competitive, and a location with a skilled workforce can provide a competitive advantage. A skilled workforce can also help attract new businesses to the area, creating more jobs and economic opportunities. Increased Productivity: A skilled workforce can improve productivity by reducing errors and increasing efficiency. With the right training and education, workers can perform tasks more quickly and accurately, and are more likely to innovate and develop new products and services. Innovation: A skilled workforce can also drive innovation. Skilled workers are better able to identify problems and develop new solutions. Innovation can help businesses stay competitive and can create new economic opportunities. Higher Wages: A skilled workforce tends to command higher wages, which can increase consumer spending and boost the local economy. Higher wages also attract skilled workers to the area, further improving the quality of the workforce and creating a virtuous cycle of economic growth. Business Growth: Skilled workers can help businesses to grow and expand by providing the expertise and knowledge needed to enter new markets and develop new products. Attraction of Investment: Regions with a skilled workforce are more likely to attract investment from businesses looking for a talented pool of workers to hire. Diversification of Industries: A skilled workforce can support the development of new industries and sectors, which can help to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on any one industry. Going forward, there are two options for Estevan in regards to a skilled workforce for future economic development; either retain existing skilled workers (coal miners and power workers) or attract new skilled labour. Given the problems that the city has had with attracting new residents of any kind (see latest StatsCan population figures) much less skilled labour, the key seems to lie in retaining and developing our own local skilled labour force. Given the pending death of our coal industry and the demand for those workers elsewhere, even this might be a bridge too far. How can Estevan keep those skilled, high paid workers and prevent them from moving elsewhere for work? Some may stay in the city, employed in jobs offering lower wages for family or other reasons and yet others may decide to leave to get paid for the skills and experience that they offer. The challenge for the city will be how to convince those workers that staying in Estevan is in their best interest. Overall, a skilled workforce is essential for economic development. With little else differentiating Saskatchewan communities in regard to competitive advantage, a skilled workforce is key. A region with a talented and well-educated workforce is more likely to attract new businesses, create new jobs, and generate economic growth.Without a skilled workforce, businesses may struggle to stay competitive and the local economy may stagnate. Investing in education, training and re-training programs can help build a strong and competitive workforce, attracting businesses and driving economic growth. This is why the province and city’s singular focus on subsidies for economic development initiatives is short sighted - it completely ignores labour retention and workforce development. Saskatchewan Coal Transition Centre

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