Ontario Construction Secretariat's Annual Survey Identifies Need for Increased Investment in Apprenticeship Training

Ontario's Construction Unions and Contractors Lead the Way in Apprenticeship Training

TORONTO, Feb. 17 /CNW/ - Ontario's industrial, commercial and institutional building construction industry continues to face skills shortages, a situation that is likely to worsen with the aging workforce, making increased awareness and investment in apprenticeship training an important economic priority for the province.

According to the annual survey of the industry commissioned by the Ontario Construction Secretariat, parts of which were released today, contractors identify shortages of skilled labour and staff as the key barrier to business expansion. Only 18% of the respondents expect the availability of skilled construction workers to increase in 2011, down from 23% last year and 47% in 2009.

"This points to the need for increased investment in apprenticeship training to further awareness of career opportunities in the skilled construction trades as well as to improve employment opportunities for apprentices, yet the survey indicates that the opposite may be taking place," says Sean Strickland, CEO of the Secretariat. 

The number of firms employing apprentices has declined to 43% from 47% a year ago (and 57% in 2009). Unionized contractors are considerably more likely to hire registered apprentices, with 68% of union respondents indicating that they employ apprentices compared to 32% of non-union contractors. The survey also revealed that unionized contractors are more likely to employ significantly more apprentices than their non-union counterparts.

And among those firms that employ apprentices, only about one-quarter (23%) indicate that their investment in apprenticeship training is increasing, while most (71%) indicate that it is 'staying the same'.

"Typically during periods of decreased economic activity, apprenticeship investment declines due to fewer construction projects.  In times of decreased construction activity it is harder to find jobs for apprentices.  We hope that with increased economic activity we will see additional investment in apprenticeship," Strickland notes.

The Construction Sector Council (CSC) has estimated that the Ontario construction industry will need to replace 23% of its workforce or 73,000 workers by 2019 because of the aging of this population.

Among contractors that employ apprentices, there is disagreement over whether the skill levels of apprentices are better today than five years ago - 40% saying yes, 40% saying no.

However, there is agreement on some of the areas that need to be addressed in order to attract and train the skilled workers of the future: 

  • 65% say youth are not aware of construction career opportunities
  • 93% say more needs to be done to expose youth to the technical skills required by the construction industry
  • 82% say new training requirements will be needed because of new environmental standards such as LEED
  • 77% indicate that the academic level of new apprentices needs to be improved

The survey of 1,000 non-residential ICI contractors in Ontario was conducted by Ipsos Reid between November 21 and December 16, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%, nineteen times out of twenty (95% confidence interval).

Established in 1993, the Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS) facilitates relationships and dialogue among trade unions and contractors in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) construction industry. Together with representatives from the provincial government, OCS forms a tripartite organization. Its mission is to improve the competitive position of the industry through knowledge, research and discussion of issues of common concern. Please visit www.iciconstruction.com for further information.

SOURCE Ontario Construction Secretariat

For further information:

The survey report is available on request. To arrange an interview with Sean Strickland, CEO of the Secretariat, please contact:

Dena Fehir or Niki Kerimova

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Ontario Construction Secretariat

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