RC106 MayJune2023 - Magazine - Page 28
THE PATH FORWARD
Addressing Canada’s skilled trades shortage by John Tenpenny
DDRESSING THE SKILLED LABOUR SHORTAGE in the Canadian
construction industry is a national pastime, with
seemingly no shortage of attention paid by the federal government and their provincial counterparts.
And with good reason.
This country’s labour force growth rate has been
trending downward for nearly two decades and according to
Statistics Canada, between 2016 and 2021 more than 1.4 million Canadians entered the ranks of those aged 55 and older.
A recent report from BuildForce Canada estimated the
construction industry could be short as many as 29,000
workers by 2027. “An ongoing commitment to apprenticeship development in both compulsory and non-compulsory trades will be necessary to ensure there are sufficient
numbers of qualified tradespeople to sustain a skilled
labour force over the long term,” stated the report.
During the leadup to the most recent budget season,
various levels of government announced plans to tackle
the issue, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who
took the time during a recent town hall meeting to take
questions from the members of the Carpenters’ District
Council of Ontario at the union’s training centre.
Trudeau was asked about training, immigration and
how to better promote careers in the skilled trades.
“I’m standing here in this training centre that is proof
positive that you will continue to be able to adapt to all
the new technologies, all the new opportunities that come
in with the world that is transforming,” Trudeau told the
audience. “Everyone says the future is going to be all digital and the future is going to be all science and technology.
Absolutely, yes, and the jobs you are going to be doing are
going to continue to get more sophisticated, require more
and more technology and computers to do it, but building
a house is never going to be done by a robot. The skills
you have are always going to be necessary and they can’t
According to the Prime Minister, immigration policies
are one way of addressing the shortage.
“One of the big questions we get all the time is as our
government is raising immigration levels to the highest
levels it’s ever been in a few years, we will be bringing in
500,000 people a year, we are already facing challenges in
housing. Where are we going to house these 500,000 people?” Trudeau told the audience. “All these people would
be able to contribute to the building trades a lot, particularly now that we are targeting changes in our immigration system that allow us to target more specifically areas
where there are still shortages or trades shortages.”
Training facilities and apprenticeship programs to help
John Tenpenny is the
editor of ReNew Canada.
RENEW CANADA – MAY/JUNE 2023
bolster the ranks of construction workers have taken priority recently with millions in funding proposed.
In The Trades, a federally funded program that will help
apprentices get started in the skilled trades was announced
by Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU). Over the
next two years the program will provide financial incentives and training support for unionized small and medium-sized contractors that hire, train, and retain first-year
apprentices to address labour availability across Canada.
“Canada’s Building Trades Unions are leaders in delivering the highest quality training to produce the safest,
skilled trades workforce anywhere in the world. With
the Building Trades vast network of training centres and
employers; and world-class apprenticeship programs,
we can ensure apprentices can access job opportunities,
training, and support to not only start an apprenticeship
but complete it,” said Sean Strickland, executive director,
Canada’s Building Trades Unions. “With the support
of the federal government, In The Trades will create
opportunities for more Canadians from equity deserving
groups to get started in an apprenticeship, while providing support to unionized contractors to grow Canada’s
skilled trades workforce.”
Unionized employers can receive a grant of $5,000
for hiring a first-year apprentice, with an additional
$5,000 available if the first-year apprentice is from an
equity deserving group.
The goal is to secure 4,000 skilled trades positions with
a focus on supporting candidates from equity deserving
groups. CBTU has launched an online portal to streamline
the application process for unionized employers and firstyear apprentices to meet this goal. The program will run
between September 2022 and March 2024 and CBTU will
work with provincial and local building trades councils
and affiliates across the country.
“The Building Trades of Alberta is dedicated to increasing
diversity in the skilled trades and to fostering an inclusive
work environment. This includes attracting and retaining
more groups like women, Indigenous, new Canadians,
youth, and apprentices to our unions through various
outreach campaigns. Not only does this help bring in new
talent and foster the next generation of skilled trades professionals, but it also helps fill the looming labour gap felt in
our industry,” said Terry Parker, executive director, Building
Trades of Alberta. “CBTU’s In The Trades will not only help
these groups and others skill up, but it will also place them
in rewarding careers in the unionized skilled trades, ones
with pension, health and welfare benefits, and community
and family-supporting wages.”