Feature Article: PCA on the Front Lines of Labour Supply Challenges

There was a time when the construction industry spoke of “impending labour shortages.” Today it is more accurate to speak in present tense. There is no “impending labour shortage,” there is a labour shortage.

The need for skilled labour is one of the key challenges facing the construction industry in Canada, and PCA is at the front lines, working hard to ensure a skilled, educated, safe labour force, and to ensure that government policy meets the needs of the industry.

PCA’s work on this file takes a number of different forms. At the federal level, PCA contributed to HRSDC’s study on “Fixing the Skills Gap: Addressing Existing Labour Shortages in High Demand Occupations

PCA was a unique voice among those who presented. Its innovative approach to labour relations, focus on under-represented groups, particularly through partnerships with Women Building Futures and aboriginal groups, and its involvement in apprenticeship programs from high school and beyond form the backbone of its approach to building a strong construction labour force.

One concrete example of this work is seen in PCA’s sponsorship of the 20th Annual Provincial Skills Canada Competition in Alberta.  As a leading sponsor of the event, PCA was able to connect with over 11, 500 students, teachers, parents and career seekers. In addition the sponsorship enabled PCA to engage with a variety of government partners, representatives from colleges, technical institutes and other labour stakeholders.

PCA also hosted a “labour supply forum” in Alberta where PCA members were able to engage with various labour brokers, interact with key players in Alberta’s Ministry of Employment and to engage in frank discussion with CLAC, the Alberta Construction Association and a number of other stakeholders.

Not only is PCA working hard to ensure that its members voices are heard when government makes policy, but it is also at the forefront in the struggle to ensure that government does not hinder the development of a skilled labour force.

In Ontario, PCA is at the leading edge of a large and growing coalition of construction employers who are seeking to restrain policy from its current trajectory. Sean Reid, Ontario’s Provincial Director, is chair of the coalition which is looking to abolish a new regulatory body – the “Ontario College of Trades.” The college places oversight of apprenticeships, compulsory certification and a whole host of other regulatory powers in the hands of non-government agency.  The coalition of employers, which has grown to include almost all major industry associations in Ontario, is concerned about the cost, governance and effectiveness of the body. Sean Reid notes that the college is set to impose $84 million dollars of new fees on the industry at a time when it needs to focus on growing its labour force.

“Without transparency, accountability, or explanation of any real benefits to the skilled trades sector, the College is in no position to impose a new $84 million tax on Ontario trades workers and employers, and we’re in no position to accept the tax.”

Labour supply remains a clear and present challenge for our industry, but across the country, PCA is present to ensure that its members can meet that challenge.