Labour, supply chain, immigration & technology are critical issues
By Richard Lyall/RESCON
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Leslie Roberts, host of Ottawa at Work on CFRA 580 News Talk Radio.
Purpose of the interview was to talk about the labour situation in construction. There have been a number of stories in the media lately about the subject and several reports have been produced indicating that we are in dire need of young people to replace the anticipated number of older workers retiring in the next few years.
We covered a lot of ground on the issue during the interview but, as is often the case with radio, we also veered into other subjects, such as how COVID-19 has affected the supply chain, immigration, the outlook for the industry, and how youth can get into construction.
On labour, I acknowledged it is an issue that has been going on for a while now – and it is something the industry will deal with. I noted there are still people on CERB and as they come off that assistance, it may help the situation.
We face challenges, though, as noted in a recent report by the thought leadership team at Royal Bank of Canada. The report indicates the Canadian workforce will see a 10,000-worker deficit in 56 nationally recognized Red Seal trades over the next five years, a scarcity that could be widened tenfold when 144 provincially regulated trades are added into the mix.
So, there is a lot of work to do there.
COVID-19 has certainly made a bad situation worse. Our industry was going flat-out prior to the pandemic and, of course, once it hit it introduced a whole new range of challenges. There is no question that COVID affected the supply chain and knocked production schedules out of whack.
We were able to deal with the COVID situation, thanks in large part to extended work hours being implemented by the province, but social distancing and other measures imposed on worksites slowed down production.
As I explained in the radio interview, it’s a bit of a pig in a python right now where we’re working our way through the delays. Our industry works very much like automotive production and when parts are missing along the way it disrupts the whole system. For example, there was a disruption in some of the manufactured products used in homes because a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico disrupted the supply of glue.
We presently still have challenges with the availability of copper and steel and certain wire products for construction.
When the supply chain is upset, schedules get out of whack and the just-in-time system becomes a real challenge – but it is getting better.
Roberts and I also spoke about our immigration system and the need for more people who are entering Canada to have a skilled trades background.
We have been doing a heck of a job with the Government of Ontario to promote the sector but we’re not hitting our immigration targets and specifically attracting those with construction backgrounds.
On the technology front, I noted that we are in the late beginning stages of a real bump-up in advancements in construction. A lot of people don’t realize that construction is already technology-based. The industry is advancing rapidly and will provide additional opportunities for youth entering construction in the years to come.
The talent management departments of companies in our industry are looking for the right people with the right attitudes and the right skills.
I highlighted the RESCON Residential Construction Management program at George Brown College as an example of collaboration between the industry and education to get youth into construction careers. The college has been a leader, not just in Ontario, but globally in terms of construction management training.
There are many union and joint labour-management programs and training centres in Ontario that also do a terrific job in developing and training people.
So, while there are issues, we are heading down the right track.
Click here listen to the full interview.
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