Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Construction Industry in B.C. Continues to Face Worker Shortage

Skilled tradespeople are in high demand in B.C. – and the shortage is only expected to get worse.

Skilled tradespeople are in high demand in B.C. – and the shortage is only expected to get worse.

The construction industry in British Columbia continues to experience a shortage in skilled tradespeople, says B.C. Construction Association vice-president Abigail Fulton, with over 30,000 jobs unfilled in 2012. According to Fulton, there would still be a dire shortage in the construction sector even if one of every five high school graduates in B.C. were to pursue a trade.

As a result, the association is turning to Ireland to fill 600 vacancies in the industry. The association has organized a Construction Job Expo in Belfast on October 31st and in Dublin on November 2nd. The expo will represent approximately 30 employers, half of whom are located in B.C.

“Our staff will be providing seminars on working, living and investing in B.C., and will provide important on-the-ground expertise and advice on immigration matters,” Fulton said.

The association has turned to Ireland because the country’s economy crashed, leaving skilled tradespeople without work and eager to work in Canada, as evidenced by the 20,000 people who turned out for the association’s first expo, which was held in March of last year. The program helps eligible workers an accelerated inroad to permanent residence as it addresses the impending labour shortage.

“Listen, these folk are over there, we know their apprenticeship system is excellent, they’re looking for work and we need workers,” Fulton says.

Fulton is hoping that high schools will start encouraging students to pursue the trades and promote them as skilled professions with viable futures.

“The real challenge, I think, is convincing youth and their parents that trades is the way to go,” says Fulton. “We’ve got to really put a lot of focus in that area and try to make sure that young people in high school today recognize this opportunity before they get out of high school and decide to go to university.”

Although some believe there are currently enough skilled, unionized workers in Canada to fill vacant positions, there is agreement that there will be a skilled worker shortage in the coming years, especially with new liquefied natural-gas, hydro-electric and oil and gas pipeline proposals on the horizon.

“There’s lots of evidence to suggest we’re not doing enough to train construction workers in skilled trades in British Columbia,” says Jim Sinclair, president of the BC Federation of Labour, “and if even half these projects come through we’re going to have a crisis unless we start now to deal with the problem.”

The construction industry will need skilled workers in all areas, including bricklayers, framing carpenters, power-line technicians and welders, among others. Architects and structural engineers will be in short supply as well.

If you’re interested in pursuing  a career as a skilled tradesperson, here are just some of the post-secondary institutions in B.C. that offer programs related to the construction industry:

Linda Galeazzi
Author: Linda Galeazzi
Linda Galeazzi has been an online writer and proof reader for several years.
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