The new compulsory program rolled out by the NDP Government today will make it more difficult for young workers to get into the trades and more confusing for construction contractors to hire workers, says the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), which sponsors more trades apprentices than any other organization, union, or business in BC.
“Like many BC industries, we are facing a shortage of workers. But you don’t attract more people to the trades by closing the door to get into them and forcing contractors to navigate a sea of red tape. You do it by expanding opportunities to get into the industry – more training spaces, shorter wait lists for training spaces in colleges, updated curriculum, online delivery of training, and more opportunities to learn different aspects of construction,” said Chris Gardner, ICBA President.
A 2013 study by the C.D. Howe Institute found that provinces that have imposed tight restrictions on entry into the trades have 44 per cent fewer workers in the trades than those without a compulsory approach.
“The industry long ago recognized the multiple pathways a worker takes to acquire skills to become a ticketed tradesperson or to pursue other career aspirations,” said Gardner. “The evidence shows that compulsory trades do not result in more people completing an apprenticeship.”
Today’s announcement does nothing to address two major problems facing apprentices and contractors seeking to train their workers: the lack of training spaces and long wait lists to get into classes. “There are too few trades schools – for many trades, there is only one school in the entire province serving nearly 250,000 workers,” said Gardner. “Compounding the challenge are wait lists at many schools of at least a year, and sometimes up to three years.”
“If we want to get more young people into the trades, we should be adding seats at training schools and modernizing the curriculum and how its delivered,” said Gardner. “Governments should not be dictating to contractors how many ticketed trades people should be working with apprentices – it’s a level of bureaucracy that merely adds cost and complexity and creates confusion.”
According to Gardner, what is needed is broad industry consultation and a more comprehensive approach to the workforce development and training challenges facing the construction sector. “We are emerging from a global pandemic, so now is exactly the time to bring people together for conversations that will help rebuild our economy and create jobs and opportunity. Limiting discussion and dialogue and rushing programs out the door will only serve to set us back not move us forward,” said Gardner.