Georgina Trades Training Inc. developing pre-apprenticeship programs to help fill construction labour void
Skilled tradespeople, especially in the residential construction sector, are in short supply – leading to higher costs and delayed construction projects.
But this doesn’t come as a surprise from those in the know.
“We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that there’s a huge shortage in the skilled trades,” said Georgina Trades Training Inc. (GTTI) chairperson John De Faveri.
“Developers have the foundations in the ground. Then the project gets mothballed,” added the former Newmarket elementary school principal and current Aurora resident.
“Developers can’t find the framers, roofers or carpenters to get the houses up.”
Last year, the training institute commissioned a substantive study completed by Deloitte to deep dive into the construction labour market.
GTTI is using the findings of the $90,000 study — funded in part by the Town of Georgina and South Lake Futures, as original GTTI funding partners — to create a solution and bring about change in the industry.
Part of the study analyzed BuildForce Canada’s 10-year construction labour market forecast for the province.
According to BuildForce, more than 100,000 additional workers will be needed by 2027 to just keep up with residential construction demand and to offset the 87,000 current construction workers set to retire within the next 10 years.
Some of the labour market challenges are a declining pool of youth entering the construction sector as well as an aging workforce.
The study also notes with a labour shortage comes reduced productivity and higher costs for both employers and homebuyers.
This is coming off the heels of record-high construction starts for apartment and condo buildings in 2018, which mothballed the following year due to lack of labour availability and, in some parts, lack of water and sewer capacity.
The study outlined several options for GTTI to help bridge the labour shortage gap.
“There’s a connotation around the trades, that it’s a second-class job,” De Faveri said. “But the trades can be a great, viable career to get into.”
Based on BuildForce’s top residential construction jobs, typical labourers make between $47,000 and $51,000 annually.
With the highest paid profession — an elevator mechanic — making upwards of about $108,000.
Part of the labour shortage problem is the heavy layer of bureaucracy from the point of employers connecting with skilled labourers and the current trades college curriculum is out of date, De Faveri said.
One option is for GTTI to establish itself as a brokerage between employers looking for skilled labourers and skilled labourers looking for employment.
There is a difference between large developers building projects to a massive scale and smaller developing firms who lack the resources to find, hire and commit to training an apprentice, De Faveri said.
According to the province, which started its digital advertisement campaign promoting the skilled trades earlier this year, there were on average 204,000 job openings between January and September of 2019. Of those job openings, more than 13,000 were in the construction sector alone.
Part of becoming a go-between agency and a centralized trades hub means spreading the word about the skilled trades as a first-choice profession and exposing students earlier to option of going into the trades.
“If a student asks how to become a doctor or lawyer, teachers can tell them,” De Faveri said. “But if the student asks to how to become a plumber, many have no idea.”
Another avenue GTTI is exploring is developing a six-month pre-apprenticeship program to compete with the existing standard two-year trades college program.
“Many of the trade college programs are too long,” said GTTI executive director Valerie Ellis. “We want to get these students into the workforce sooner.”
At the end of the pre-apprenticeship program, students will be certified and workforce-ready, Ellis added.
The program is meant to be a stepping-stone into the industry, where students become fully qualified and can either choose to continue in the workforce or work toward getting a college designation.
GTTI is still in discussions with the provincial Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The school aims to launch its revamped programming to coincide with the start of second semester 2021 to capitalize on the senior high school students already interested in the trades.
Persico, A (2020) 'Skilled trades shortage: What this Georgina institute is doing to fill the labour gap', Georgina Advocate, 13 February. Available at
https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/9846029-skilled-trades-shortage-what-this-georgina-institute-is-doing-to-fill-the-labour-gap/ (Accessed 13 February 2020).