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We must lay groundwork to get more youth into construction industry

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The labour shortage is a very real problem for the residential construction industry that, if left unchecked, could slow down building of much-needed new homes.

It is estimated that the industry will face a shortfall of more than 100,000 workers over the next decade as one-third of the tradespeople in Ontario are nearing retirement. Today, many jobs in the construction industry remain unfilled despite the fact they are well-paid, often with pensions and benefits.

To change the narrative and ensure our economy recovers, we must do a better job of letting young people know about the opportunities in construction and get them into apprenticeship programs. 

Last fall, three youth advisors who were appointed by Labour, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton to attract more youth, including underrepresented groups, to skilled trades careers, presented a report that indicated we must provide more information about the trades to youth. Andrew Pariser, RESCON’s vice president, was one of the advisors on the committee.

The advisors held more than 90 engagement sessions, met with more than 400 stakeholders and heard from 5,600 survey respondents.

The feedback they received was crystal clear. Ontario’s skilled trades are a phenomenal career choice for today’s youth, recent immigrants and those seeking a new career. But to get more young people into the industry we must reduce barriers and create more supportive pathways to support the overall success and retention of apprentices.

The Ontario government has taken steps. It is making an additional $90-million investment in the trades sector, some of which will be used to deploy 63 additional recruiters to more than 800 high schools to teach youth about the trades. This initiative will help by educating guidance counsellors and educators who have significant influence over the career decisions of youth.

The province is also expanding the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit with an additional $275 million to help offset training costs for another 240,000 jobseekers.  

Additionally, the province has asked the federal government to double the number of candidates who can be brought in under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program so more trades can be recruited from overseas.

These initiatives won’t solve all the problems, but it is a start.

Employers also have a role to play in increasing the labour supply. They can help boost numbers by bringing on more apprentices and focus on keeping the trainees they have. 

Employers who train or hire an apprentice are eligible for a number of different grants and tax credits. The province has information on resources and financial incentives for employers on its apprenticeship site

The Achievement Incentive, for example, can help employers train apprentices by reducing some of the cost of training. The program offers up to $4,000 to employers when apprentices meet training and certification milestones. Group Sponsorship Grants are available to employers that come together to share apprenticeship management and training responsibilities to provide a pool of trained trade-specific workers.

In addition, employers may be eligible for money from the federal Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit which allows an employer to claim $2,000 per year for each eligible apprentice. Employers may also qualify for federal wage subsidies and other assistance programs.

The construction industry has well-paying jobs and there are considerable non-monetary benefits to working in the trades. Individuals can earn a good salary as an apprentice while they train for a career.

The construction industry, and in particular the homebuilding industry, are expected to be busier. Canada’s population growth, fueled by immigration, is expected to be the highest amongst G7 countries. With the numbers rising, there will be more demand for housing and skilled trades workers.

We must lay the groundwork now to fill these future jobs.

Richard Lyall is president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). He has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. Contact him at media@rescon.com.

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