Apprentices required on B.C. infrastructure projects
By STAFF REPORTConstruction Infrastructure P3s Skills Development
New policy takes effect July 1
British Columbia is requiring all contractors working on infrastructure projects worth $15 million or more to sponsor apprentices through the entire project cycle and report on their on-project use prior to receiving their final payment.
The new Apprentices on Public Projects policy is going to connect more young people to the skills and training they need to be first in line for careers in construction, Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, said recently.
The new policy will leverage government’s multi-billion dollar annual investment in infrastructure by requiring contractors working on major public construction projects like schools, roads, bridges and hospitals to comply, the minister said in a release. The policy applies to projects tendered after July 1, 2015.
After that date, all prime contractors on designated construction infrastructure projects will be required to ensure that its subcontractors use registered apprentices in contracts valued at more than $500,000, where the primary scope of work is in one of the 57 Red Seal trades. Registered apprentices must be used directly on the project throughout the term of the contracts.
Prime contractors are to provide apprenticeship data by completing and submitting an Apprentice Utilization Report, quarterly and at the end of the project. The province will use the information to monitor compliance and to track whether registered Red Seal apprentices are being used on the project. For those projects with a total provincial investment less than $15 million, prime contractors are encouraged to adopt best practices, including engaging in apprenticeship training and reporting on the use of registered apprentices and trainees.
The policy aims to ensure British Columbians are trained to fill the million job openings expected between now and 2022 – with 44 per cent in the skilled trades and technical occupations. It will also help meet the labour workforce requirements of private sector projects – a key goal given last month’s agreement between the B.C. government and Pacific NorthWest LNG setting the stage for a potential $36-billion investment, the minister noted.
“For the sustainability of the construction industry, we need apprenticeship training in which everyone participates,” said Robert Lashin, president, Houle Electric. “By having a policy like this, government is setting a standard but is not being prescriptive. Trade contractors that want to be involved in public projects must support apprenticeship training and, in turn, these companies are showing a commitment to the future of their craft.”
The policy helps deliver on B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint launched one year ago to re-engineer education and training so B.C. is connecting people with the skills required for in demand jobs, according to a government statement. And it helps meet the recommendations contained in the McDonald ITA report, released last year.
“Employer sponsors are key to guaranteeing a skilled workforce needed to sustain and grow our economy,” said Gary Herman, CEO, Industry Training Authority. “This policy ensures apprentices have opportunities to gain experience that aligns with labour market demands so they have the right skills in the right place at the right time for the future.”
“This government initiative is extremely important to building the skilled trades in our province,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director, BC Building Trades. “Apprentices can only complete their apprenticeship when they have the opportunity to take classroom theory on to the job site. Building the B.C. economy cannot be done without building the skills and talents of the young men and women who build B.C.”
Government representatives also held extensive consultations with stakeholders from the construction industry during the development of the new initiative.
“A policy like this has been a long time coming. It’s a fabulous step in the right direction for employing more apprentices in the trades,” said Wayne Marsden, field personnel advisor, PCL Constructors Westcoast. “PCL is regularly visiting schools, promoting opportunities in the industry and talking to young people about the benefits of construction careers. This policy is another way to ensure companies are offering young people the experience they need.”
“Apprentices play an important part in ensuring we have a skilled, experienced workforce for the future,” added Dave Flint, B.C. regional manager, Flynn Canada “This policy is a clear recognition of their value in B.C. We’re really happy with the high level of input that government requested from our industry in developing its policy.”