In my last blog, What’s Next for Alberta Oil, I discussed some of the positive signs for the Alberta crude oil industry, including strong international demand, the likelihood of increased pipeline capacity, new oil sands ventures, and the outlook for diversification based on crude oil. Each of these holds some possibility of new jobs for building trades workers. Today, I start blogging about what the BTA and its Locals are doing to get more jobs for Alberta’s building trades workers – and not just in the crude oil industry. I begin with our efforts to promote careers in the building trades. Here is where we are at.
Canada needs building trades workers
Canada will soon face a major shortage of building trades workers. BuildForce Canada estimates some 300,000 new construction workers will be required over the next 10 years due to economic growth and, significantly, the retirement of some 260,000 workers.
Alberta will need 59,500 construction and maintenance workers over the same 10-year period. 40,800 workers will be lost to retirements. BuildForce Canada estimates that Alberta can attract some 38,400 new workers that are 30 and younger from within the province and will have to rely on out-of-province sources for 21,100 workers. That becomes problematic, of course, when other provinces are competing for the same workers.
Supporting building trades apprentices
For some time, we’ve all known about the impending shortage of workers. The significance of losing so many building trades workers goes well beyond numbers, however. When retirees leave the workforce, irreplaceable knowledge and experience walks out the door with them. It is no wonder that programs to support the hiring of apprentices have received so much support.
Federal programs for apprentices include grants, loans, employment insurance, and training tax deductions. Alberta also offers various forms of financial assistance. Check out the Tradesecrets website. Many industry partners also support apprenticeship programs. BTA and its Locals offer a wide array of scholarships for apprentices.
Training building trades apprentices
Building trade unions are certainly doing their fair share when it comes to training new apprentices.
North America’s Building Trades Unions has more than 1,900 training centres in Canada and the United States. Canada’s Building Trades Unions and signatory contractor partners invest more than $300 million annually to support more than 175 apprenticeship training and education facilities. And some of the best training facilities in Canada are located right here in Alberta. We will be featuring those training facilities in future blogs and social media posts.
Recruiting the next generation of skilled trades workers
Where will the next generation of building trades workers come from? The largest underrepresented labour sources in Canada are Indigenous people, women, new Canadians, and youth. Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU) has a national Build Together program that focuses on the recruitment and retention of these underrepresented populations.
Here are some career-building initiatives we support in Alberta.
Build Together Alberta
In Canada, less than 4% of building trades workers are women. In Alberta, women currently make up close to 8% of the members of BTA’s affiliated trade unions. That speaks, in part, to the hard work of the BTA, our Locals, and the sisters and brothers who make up our membership. But with the downturn of Alberta’s economy, we are losing far too many women trades workers (some 750 over the last 3 years). As a result, BTA recently launched a new initiative called “Retain to Maintain: Women of the Skilled Trades”. The project has financial support from the BTA, Ironworkers 725 and 720, and the Government of Alberta. Delanee Daviau, Chair of Build Together Alberta, is the assistant project director. Lindsay Amundsen, CBTU Director of Workforce Development, was recently in Alberta to support this initiative. Watch for more news on “Retain to Maintain” in the coming weeks.
Trade Winds to Success
Trade Winds to Success was started by the Union Training Trust Fund partners with Alberta Indigenous communities in order to increase the number of Indigenous people in the building trades. The partnership became official in 2005. Trade winds to success has delivered pre-apprenticeship training programs in Edmonton and Calgary for more than 10 years. Recently, it began offering programs in Lethbridge and is trying to extend its reach to rural Alberta. With more than 1,200 graduates, Trade Winds is making a difference. Participating BTA locals offer use of their training facilities, skills training, and exposure to cutting-edge industry practices. Many also have their own initiatives to recruit Indigenous workers.
Skills Canada Alberta
Skills Canada Alberta promotes careers in skilled trades and technologies to our province’s youth. Building Trades of Alberta and several of our Locals support and sponsor Skills Canada Alberta. This year, Build Together Alberta once again ran BTA’s booth at the annual provincial skills competition. Build Together’s Passport to the Unionized Constructions Trades proved even more successful than last year and has been adopted more widely by Skills Canada.
Building Trades of Alberta unions provide a number of services for their members, including job referrals, World class training facilities, pensions, health and welfare benefits, high wages and the safest worksites in the business.
Skills Canada Alberta
Programs like Trade Winds to Success, Build Together, and Skills Canada Alberta are helping to recruit and retain Alberta’s next generation of building trades workers. The BTA also supports Helmets to Hardhats.
The BTA and our Locals lobby government and industry to support these programs and to let them know we are training the next generation of building trades workers and offer the best skills and safety training Alberta has to offer. We all need to make sure governments, Albertans, and the media know the value of these programs. I encourage you to use your social media channels to promote these programs supporting careers in the building trades. Share this page on your favourite social media. Follow BTA on Facebook and Twitter.
My next blog will be about our support for projects that can help grow jobs for building trades workers.