Shortage of Skilled Trades Workers a Growing Problem in Canada

December 8, 2014
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It’s an issue that has been discussed, but without any solid solutions. The number of skilled trades workers in the labour market in Canada— an occupation defined as requiring “specialized skills and knowledge, and apprenticeship training and certification”—is seriously lacking. And while the workers currently in the market are aging, the shortage exists due to a lack of young workers between the ages of 25 and 34 gaining the knowledge and education necessary to make up for the shortfall.

Some Skilled Trade Sectors Are Doing Just Fine
This shortage is not across the board for skilled workers, however. If you consider skilled trades such as cosmetology and food services, then the number of young adults gaining certificates in these fields far outnumber the number of older Canadians currently with that level of expertise.

The issue lies in skilled trades, such as construction and landscaping, plumbing, and mining services. Young people are shying away from these trades in favour of the aforementioned cosmetology and culinary fields, among other non-skilled trade fields. This has led experts to predict that by the year 2020, over one million skilled workers will be needed across the country, a number that won’t be filled if certification in these fields continues at the current rate.

Solutions to the Skilled Trade Shortage
Where there are obstacles, there are opportunities. At a skills summit that took place in Toronto in June, Employment Minister Jason Kenney said, “We know we have these huge investments and opportunities…that will require tens if not hundreds of thousands of skilled workers who are not currently available.” Exactly how these investments would be used to incite interest in this market wasn’t detailed, which has been part of the issue.

Many critics have cited solutions as being short-sighted, but in a special piece to The Globe and Mail earlier this year, mining worker Marcia Smith suggested that encouraging women to get into the skilled trades outside of cosmetology and vocations such as florists would be a beneficial first step. That would entail the Canadian government broadening the discussion to include women and educating them on the benefits of joining these other skilled trades, the most notable of which being salary.

“Considering that the average salary and benefits for someone working in B.C.’s mining industry in 2013 was $114,600, one wonders why more women are not pursuing these jobs,” Smith pointed out. She went on to compare the mining salary with those of an electrician and florist, which are $34.00 and $14.00 per hour, respectively.

Another solution would be finding better ways to attract all young people to the skilled trades professions that are in need. The demand being at a premium but the interest this low indicates Canada has done a poor job influencing and educating this generation and pushing them towards joining trades such as construction and mining. And while other areas have flourished, the demand for these other positions to be filled will continue to increase unless a comprehensive strategy is put into place and successfully executed.

Companies Doing Their Best to Provide Products
While the future of these industries is in question, some companies are thriving in the skilled trade sector, including those in construction and landscape services.

FSI Landscape Supply is one such company, providing supplies at affordable rates to help landscapers and homeowners design and build areas of their home to achieve a desired look or aesthetic.

Sources:

Clancy, C., “Canada’s coming economic headache: A serious shortage of skilled workers,” The Financial Post, June 25, 2014; http://business.financialpost.com/2014/06/25/jason-kenney-canada-skilled-workers/.

Smith, M., “More women in skilled trades is a win-win,” The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2014; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/more-women-in-skilled-trades-is-a-win-win/article19608649/.

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