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Ontario facing future shortages in skilled tradespeople


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February 27, 2012 by Andrew Snook

Ontario needs more tradespeople. That’s the message coming from the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS).

A recent OCS survey and found 26 per cent of Ontario’s contractors expect to see a decrease in the number of skilled construction tradespeople available in 2012.

That concern appears to be especially strong in northern and eastern Ontario, with 30 per cent of eastern Ontario’s contractors, and 34 per cent of northern Ontario’s contractors, expecting skilled worker shortages in the construction field, the two regions that the OCS states have with the highest expectations for business growth this year.

“Some regions of the province will experience tighter market conditions than others,” explains Kalvin Reid, a consultant for the OCS. “Northern Ontario in particular will have some challenges in staffing the level of activity anticipated and will have to utilize mobility to bring workers in from other markets across Ontario and possibly explore the use of temporary foreign workers.”

By 2019, the Construction Sector Council (CSC) expects Ontario to face a shortage of almost 100,000 skilled tradespeople, with trades such as boilermakers, gasfitters, industrial instrument technicians, millwrights, pipefitters and welders accounting for some of the biggest shortages.

Sean Strickland, CEO of the OCS, says the combination of an aging workforce and major construction projects are fuelling most of the demand for increased numbers of skilled tradespeople. Some of the bigger construction projects include: expanded public transit throughout the GTA and central Ontario, mining facilities in northern Ontario, infrastructure projects for the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games and energy infrastructure investments, such as the refurbishing of the province’s nuclear power plants.

Strickland says there are several initiatives currently underway to help fill the expected void in skilled tradespeople. “From the unionized construction industry, we’re constantly bringing in new apprentices to meet market demand,” explains Strickland. “In the Province of Ontario, there’s also the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, the colleges are also encouraging people to get into the trades and ourselves – the Ontario Construction Secretariat – run an annual career fair.”

Strickland says this year’s OCS trade fair, Future Building Toronto 2012: Hands On Construction Expo, is expected to have approximately 10,000 students in attendance. The fair is designed to introduce students, ranging from Grades 7 to 12, to different career options within the construction industry. It features workstations where students get to try their hands at a variety of trades, including laying brick and tile, welding pipe and more.

Strickland encourages anyone considering a career in the trades to visit the trade fair, which will take place from March 27 to 29 at the Better Living Centre, located at the Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ont.

He adds that supervisory and management positions within the industry will also experience a shortage in the future. “One of the other things we share with young people, or young adults looking to make a career change, is that it doesn’t start or end when you become a certified tradesperson or journeyperson, it really opens the door to a lot of other possibilities. Many of our contractors in the Province of Ontario actually started out as tradespeople.”

For more information on Future Building or the OCS survey, visit: www.iciconstruction.com
***The OCS survey was conducted by Ipsos-Reid via telephone and included 500 non-residential industrial, commercial and institutional contractors across Ontario. It was conducted from Nov. 28 to Dec. 14 in 2011. The survey is considered accurate within 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The OCS will release the complete survey and the Construction Outlook Barometer at the Annual State of the Industry & Outlook Conference, to be held on March 7 at the Hilton Toronto Hotel in Toronto, Ont.