Skilled trades shortage looming

Strong apprenticeship support needed to offset approaching trades retirement flood

Dear Editor,

We salute skilled trades workers!

April is Construction and Skilled Trades Month in B.C., a time to show our appreciation for the workers who build our homes and workplaces, our schools and hospitals, our bridges and highways, and basically every square metre of public and private infrastructure from coast to coast.

Some 260,000 of these workers – representing 22 per cent of the current construction workforce in Canada – will retire by 2028.

That’s why the provincial government’s new Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) construction framework is so important. It requires one in every four workers on designated public construction projects to be an apprentice.

It also gives hiring priority to groups who are underrepresented in the skilled trades, namely women and Indigenous workers.

If we are going to survive our pending skills shortage, we will need to invest heavily in our trades and work hard to recruit and retain this future workforce.

The BC Building Trades is doing its part.

We spend more than $21 million a year at more than a dozen training centres across the province. There are more than 7,300 apprentices and trainees enrolled in our programs. We have an 85 per cent apprenticeship completion rate and last year we graduated 673 Red Seal tradespeople.

Our recent Freedom of Information request to the Industry Training Authority revealed that the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association has 969 active sponsored apprentices, while the Christian Labour Association of Canada has 300. These groups are among those challenging the CBA framework in BC Supreme Court – yes, the same framework that aspires to have 25 per cent apprentices on public projects.

In comparison, as revealed by the same FOI request, there are more than 1,300 registered apprentices in just two of our union trade schools alone: the Electrical Joint Training Committee and the Piping Industry College.

We’re putting our money where our apprentices are. Join us and let’s build B.C. together.

Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades,

representing 25 local craft construction unions belonging to 13 international unions.

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