Thanks to $1.2 million in provincial funding, GreenFirst Forest Products will restart a decommissioned paper line that will manufacture a new, eco-friendly paper product, while creating 45 new jobs in Kapuskasing.
The funds will go toward a customized program designed to train new and existing GreenFirst employees to work on the production of Envirosmart, a paper packaging made with 100 per cent recovered wood that's being touted as an alternative to plastic and other fossil fuel-based packaging materials.
Michel Lessard, president at GreenFirst, said the new line will replace the production of newsprint, demand for which dropped by 35 per cent during the last two years of the pandemic.
Switching the line to manufacture a new product enables the company to make use of its fibre allotment, while introducing a new product to market and providing employment locally.
“Our Kapuskasing paper mill is a very important economic element of northeastern Ontario, providing 250 great jobs,” he said.
Monte McNaughton, Ontario's minister of labour, training and skills development, was in Kapuskasing on April 1 to make the announcement.
In his address, McNaughton noted the new training program would comprise a combination of online and in-class learning, and apprenticeships.
The program will impact about 100 employees. Existing employees will be retrained to acquire the skills to work on the line, and GreenFirst anticipates hiring an additional 45 new employees.
"The average wage for careers in manufacturing, forestry and logging is over $27 per hour and for trades that are part of this project, like industrial electricians and mechanical engineering technicians, the average wage is over $36 per hour,” McNaughton noted.
Heather Gagnon, GreenFirst's coordinator for human resources, recruiting and training, said the company is partnering with Collège Boréal to deliver the program, which would employ “diverse theoretical and practical training methods.”
The programs will be "comprehensive, detailed, and timely,” delivered by trainers who have years of experience in papermaking in the roles of operators and tradespeople, she noted.
“We are enthusiastic today at GreenFirst because we know that we have a bright future for Kapuskasing and surrounding communities,” Gagnon said.
“We are going to create jobs. We're going to develop training programs. We're going to grow our people and we are going to infuse our community.”
Although training for some positions has begun, GreenFirst is still accepting applicants.
Headquartered in Toronto, GreenFirst acquired a package of sawmills and paper mills in Ontario and Quebec — including sawmills in Kapuskasing, Hearst, Chapleau and Cochrane — from Rayonier Advanced Materials last April in a deal worth US$235 million.
The company produces a range of spruce, pine and fir dimensional lumber products (SPF lumber) and employs 1,500 people across locations.
GreenFirst is encouraging people who don't often pursue the trades — such as women, young people and Indigenous people — to apply. The company expects to employ all those who complete the training.
Those interested can contact Matthew Smith at Matthew.Smith@greenfirst.ca or 705-337-9633 for more information.