10,000 workers wanted for Quebec drum industry

10,000 workers wanted for Quebec drum industry

All this in the midst of a labor shortage and while Quebec still lacks some expertise in the field of electric vehicle batteries. Specialists not only have to be found, they also have to be recruited quickly.

The multinationals that want to set up their factory in the Bécancour industrial park want to start production as early as 2025. There is strong pressure to reduce dependence on China by manufacturing batteries in North America.

10000 workers wanted for Quebec drum industry

The future of the province’s electronics sector is taking place in Centre-du-Québec. Within two years, the region should be home to a huge innovation zone, allowing multinational companies to manufacture all of the battery’s components here rather than in China. The government anticipates an outright economic boom in the region, much like the North Shore did a few decades ago. Veronique Prince’s report.

“I think we will have a lot of temporary foreigners coming here. The valve is open. We can bring as many people as we want to fill positions that cannot be filled here in Quebec […] Let’s hope they want to learn French and stay in Quebec. »

— A quote from Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister for Economy, Innovation and Energy

Shall we go to Maritimes, where people speak a little more French? Will we have an immigration strategy? I don’t know yet, but the goal is not to strip our SMEs, adds Nicolet-Bécancour MEP Donald Martel.

In the last 10, 20 or 30 years it has been difficult here with the closure of large companies. I often compare it to what pulp and paper was for the Mauricie… I think the drums can replace that.

An excavator and dump truck in action.

Work to accommodate new facilities in the Bécancour industrial park is in full swing.

Photo: Radio Canada / Francois Genest

A metamorphosis awaits Bécancour

Such a large influx of workers poses many challenges for the rural town of Bécancour, which will be the focus of the mega-project. According to projections, it could grow from 14,000 to 20,000 inhabitants.

We need to provide them with housing and provide them with basic services such as school, daycare and a family doctor. Currently, Bécancour does not even have a secondary school on its vast territory.

We’re really going to need the Quebec government to speed things up here, says Mayor Lucie Allard. We are planning a new primary school, as well as a new CPE.

The two already established groups of general practitioners will not suffice. The project’s reputation will attract doctors, we’re sure of it!” she says.

A project of around 5,000 new apartments is on the table. The two-year period is very short to literally transform the city, the mayor acknowledges, but she reiterates that her teams are mobilized and motivated by this opportunity.

Short timeline: significant challenges

The CEO of the Bécancour industrial and port park is also overwhelmed. Donald Olivier compares what is happening to a real race against time.

South of Highway 30, back roads, a water system, sewers, and even a future railroad are under construction. With the government, he is doing everything to meet the needs of the multinational companies that have chosen to settle here.

Infrastructure needs to be available as soon as possible to compete with North Carolina and Tennessee, where the US government is sparing with subsidies to attract battery and electric vehicle manufacturers. Ontario is also playing the big game of seduction, in competition with Quebec, which relies above all on its know-how, on forgivable loans and on its renewable energies.

The manufacturers plan to start production and commissioning in 2025. For me and my teams, this is a file that is really challenging. These are really very short deadlines, so it’s the speed with which you have to execute them, explains Mr. Olivier. The site of the future GM Posco factory alone stretches over 5 km. A few months ago it was only crossed by a bike path.

The Port of Bécancour also needs remodeling to add storage areas and an additional quay for more cargo. It is easy to think that we will have 10 billion in investments in Bécancour, Minister Fitzgibbon specifies.

The structure of the cubes at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières in winter with students, one of whom we see wearing a mask.

The University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières could welcome new students to train them for the needs of the Silicon Valley of Battery. (file photo)

Photo: Radio Canada / Josée Ducharme

Train the workforce quickly and efficiently

The University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR) also needs to expand to quickly train the workforce. Programs are already being developed with other universities and CEGEPs in Centre-du-Québec.

“Our infrastructure already lacks space. This project will not take place without our university being able to grow with the needs. Ten thousand employees are how many thousands in Bécancour, Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan? There are also many people in human resources, health and safety, logistics or other areas. We need to take stock of the training needs of companies.”

— A quote from Christian Blanchette, Rector of the UQTR

Rector Christian Blanchette recalls that there are already several specialists in the region who can contribute to the development of lithium batteries. Mauricie and Center-du-Québec are home to the Laboratory of Energy Technologies, the Hydrogen Research Institute and the Center de Métallurgie du Québec, among others.

This critical mass of researchers has made the region particularly attractive for the government to set up an innovation zone geared towards the green economy. The future energy transition valley would consist of the cities of Bécancour, Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan.

The battery sector is clearly a project that will give Quebec a lot of visibility and legitimacy at the international level as we are able to become a dominant player, assures Minister Fitzgibbon.

All hopes are allowed according to him. He estimates that the economic benefits of the battery industry could reach $1.5 billion within ten years.