ISSUES & CHALLENGES: Ottawa has a much smaller share of the labour force in Construction occupations relative to the province. There are six regulated trades in construction that require compulsory certification in order to work in that trade: Plumber, Electrician, Sheet Metal Worker, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic and Gas Technician/Oil Burner Technician. These are well-subscribed, yet more jobs are being generated than available labour supply. In particular, there is an inadequate supply of construction trades and trades helpers, and construction labourers.
Construction work is changing from new construction to major retrofitting projects and sustainable/ green construction. Workers with appropriate technical skills sometimes lack essentials skills training. Since construction work is evolving from new construction to major retrofitting projects, there is a need to sensitize apprentices to working in a business/professional environment. Apprenticing, however, is on the decline.
Succession planning is one of the critical challenges as many independent owner-operators are retiring. Most construction businesses are small; the vast proportion of construction workers are either independent contractors or micro-businesses with fewer than 5 employees (for example, 57.4% of Construction of Buildings; 41.6% of Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction, and 50% of Specialty Trade Contractors have 1-4 employees).
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: In order to mitigate the labour supply issue, apprenticing needs to be made more lucrative, especially for smaller firms. The Aboriginal community is also an under-tapped resource that is available locally. Few immigrants enter with construction credentials, although the possibility of good wages in the industry may be of interest to some. Providing essential skills and soft skills training to the construction sector may help to arm workers with technical skills.
In regard to the succession planning issue, there seems to be interest in developing a program that teaches entrepreneurship for small business owners in construction that includes succession planning, and human resources forecasting, recruitment and retention. However, one challenge to keep in mind will be how to get SME owners to take the time out for training, even if it is subsidised or provided free of charge. One way may be to modify current curriculum to add entrepreneurship and human resource courses into existing trades certifications programs.
New technologies in green housing/construction are being used, and considering Ottawa is a technology hub, there could be an opportunity for the construction sector and ICT sector to collaborate.
The Sector Summary: Construction has been adapted from an earlier version of the Ottawa Labour Market Plan completed in March 2011.