A new program from B.C. Building Trades designed to aid workers in the skilled trades could help the labour shortage facing the province.
The Community Benefits Coalition of B.C. was created in the spring to ensure public interest projects built in the province hire local workers, paying them a fair wage and helping apprentices and other unqualified workers to get their certification.
“The demand for highly skilled trades workers is high,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades, an umbrella organization of trades unions.
Sigurdson was in Victoria Tuesday for a speaking engagement with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce about the future of the trades industry in B.C.
“As retirees go out the door and leave the tools, we need to have more young people coming in and being trained in the skilled trades,” he explained.
— BC Building Trades (@WeBuildBC) September 19, 2018
B.C. Building Trades estimates that by 2027, B.C. will be short more than 8,000 skilled trades workers, a number Sigurdson calls “significant.”
He doesn’t think housing affordability has been contributed that greatly to keeping skilled tradespeople in Victoria as workers often travel from their home communities to job sites, but does note it has had some impact.
Bringing people into the trades and employing them will require better inclusion for women and Indigenous people, he adds. Currently, just 4 per cent people working in the building trades are women.
“We need to do better,” said Sigurdson, calling it a “societal barrier” that begins when people are school age.
“Lots of young girls if given a tool set, would probably play with it,” he said, adding teachers and guidance councillors need to instill the idea of a future in the trades for all children.
The goal is to see women make up at least 10 per of the skilled trades work force, something Sigurdson feels is necessary for the province’s economic development.
Of the benefits program, Sigurdson said it will result in dividends for the province, but also keep skilled workers in B.C. maintaining the economic cycle.
“If not, capital will invest elsewhere and it will hurt the B.C. economy,” he said.