Skilled trades a vital ingredient

Many Canadians are undoubtedly missing NHL hockey, but looking at the bigger picture, things would be much worse if it was Canada’s skilled tradespeople who were on the sidelines because of a lockout.

On Tuesday, Skills/Compètences Canada hosted the launch of National Skilled Trades and Technology Week 2012, which was created to celebrate the importance of skilled trades in Canada and their history in shaping the country.

“Our country’s infrastructure was built by tradespeople and their importance is often overlooked as they are the enablers of many of the things we take for granted such as our reliance on electricity, communications networks, running water and transportation,” Shaun Thorson, Skills/ Compètences Canada CEO, said in a news release.

We do indeed rely heavily on the country’s vast army of skilled tradespeople who are employed in the construction, industrial, motive power and service sectors. Not only do we need these people, we need more of them. Figures from the Conference Board of Canada indicate a shortage of more than one million skilled workers is forecast by 2020, with an estimated 40 per cent of all new jobs in the skilled trades and technology industries.

A study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 34 per cent of companies indicated a shortage of skilled labour is what most limits the future success of their business, and 38 per cent said their business had already missed opportunities because of skill shortages. On the same theme, Statistics Canada’s Business Conditions Survey for the Manufacturing Industries found that, in 2006 and 2007, “the major production impediment was the shortage of skilled labour.”

The shortage of skilled trade workers doesn’t just affect businesses. Careersintrade.ca points out that it also affects us as consumers, noting “. . . we may need to pay more for skilled trade services, wait for these services to be available to us, and it may take longer for important infrastructure projects, such as roads and hospitals to be completed. A skilled trade shortage will affect every Canadian.”

“Industries that depend on the skilled trades have become increasingly vital to Canada’s future economic stability and to its standing in the global marketplace,” said Thorson.
In other words, in order to remain competitive in the global economy, Canada must maintain a strong supply of skilled tradespeople. That’s not easily accomplished. Canada’s skilled trades are already faced with shortages, and Careersintrades.ca notes that demand for skilled trade workers is going to increase in the coming years. In the construction sector, for example, it points out that the country’s construction labour force is estimated to grow by 100,000 workers between 2012 and 2020. In addition, the industry will need to replace 219,000 workers who are expected to retire over the next decade.

Recently immigration policy changes will help bring more skilled workers into the country, but Canada also needs to step up the training of skilled workers here at home. We may miss watching the top professional hockey players ply their trade, but we’d miss our skilled tradespeople even more

Source: Lethbridge Herald Opinon, Nov 8/12