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How to Reduce the Shortage of Skilled Trades in Ontario?

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How to Reduce the Shortage of Skilled Trades in Ontario?

Renovation tradesHow to Reduce the Shortage of Skilled Trades in Ontario?

Ontario, like many regions across Canada, is grappling with a pressing issue: a critical shortage of skilled tradespeople. As the demand for skilled labour continues to grow, various factors contribute to this deficit, ranging from demographic shifts to societal perceptions and immigration hurdles. 

For the province, this means exploring effective solutions becomes paramount to address its skilled trade shortage and ensure the vitality of its labour market.

The Skilled Labour Worker Shortage in Ontario

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From dissecting the causes behind the shortage to exploring innovative solutions, let's delve into Ontario's quest to address its skilled labour shortage.

Why Is There a Shortage of Tradespeople?

The shortage of skilled labour is not specific to Ontario. In fact, Canadian provinces as a whole are sharing in this experience and for many of the same reasons. While the reasons are plentiful, here are a few core factors:

Demographic Transition

One major reason for the shortage of skilled trade workers in Ontario and across Canada is is that many labourers are reaching retirement age, and too few young tradespeople are there to replace them. BuildForce estimates that, within the decade, Ontario will need roughly 119,000 workers to replace the retirees and complete the scheduled projects. Some in the industry believe that this estimate is on the low-end.

To elaborate, data from June 2023 shows that, across Canada, those aged 45 and above comprise 8,459,200 workers — a significant segment of the workforce. Meanwhile, the country is seeing a declining birth rate. The total fertility rates per female declined from 1.55 in 2017 to 1.43 in 2021, meaning fewer people are entering the workforce.

Lack of Interest

In part, the shortage is a result of changing demographics. There are more old people and less young people, put simply. However, among the youth we do have, there is an obvious lack of interest in the trades, or perhaps a stigma, exacerbating the situation.

It's no secret that in our society, pursuing a university education is often perceived as a more prestigious and preferable post-secondary option compared to pursuing a career in the trades, despite the fact that tradespeople often have better job security and better pay.

Immigration Hurdles

You might think that immigration would be a good supplier of skilled labourers — a thought for which you'd be correct — it is simply not filling the gap. While there are many skilled immigrants available to work in their field, their foreign credentials are not recognised in Canada.

Recent migrants to Canada with trade experience may lack the necessary Canadian workplace qualifications and awareness of requirements to work in their trade without further education, licensing, or upgrading.

Furthermore, the hurdles newcomers face are not just in relation to their credentials, but linguistic as well. If English is not your first language, filling out forms, completing interviews, etc. can be a major obstacle.

What Strategy Holds the Solution to the Shortage?

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Promote Vocational Education

With over 100,000 more people needed in the construction industry, solving the shortage is not just a matter of resource allocation or removing government red tape. At the end of the day, people need to want to become tradespeople, employers can't simply will them into existence.

While there's no one way of doing this, exposing students to skilled trades via school fares, offering courses like woodworking and mechanics, and having a strong online presence are all promising avenues for the future. 

Furthermore, it's not just about exposing them to blue-collar work, but changing the mindset that it is secondary to university, or merely a back-up plan should all else fail, is key.

Encourage Women to Participate

Historically discouraged from entering the trades due to sexist mindsets, it's no great secret that the industry has always been, and continues to be, male-dominated. Unfortunately, this leaves a demographic comprising over half of the population nearly untapped: women. 

While bettering the promotion of vocational education is helpful in this matter, particularly with a focus on engaging women, training programs remain an invaluable tool in promoting gender equity in the trades.

The Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) and Information Technology Training program offered by Ontario's The Centre for Skills Development & Training, for example, equips qualified women with the necessary tools and training to kickstart their careers in the residential building industry.

Better Support for Newcomers

In Canada, a historic emphasis on academic qualifications has often overlooked skilled tradespeople among immigrants. However, in May 2023, the government introduced a pivotal change through Express Entry, prioritising high-demand jobs like those in the building trades. 

Simultaneously, employment service providers can play a crucial role in assisting newcomers by offering language training, job search support, and credential recognition services. Together, approaches like these can aim to better integrate skilled trades immigrants into the Ontarian workforce, addressing labour shortages and fostering diversity in the trades sector.

Apprenticeship Programs

As previously mentioned, there's a lack of interest in blue-collar work. For this to change, Ontario's youth needs to be informed about the variety of opportunities in the trades well before they're set to graduate high school. The provincial government's new Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training (FAST) program is a great example of how this can be done. 

This initiative will enable Grade 11 and 12 students to engage in expanded apprenticeship learning during high school by earning extra co-operative education credits. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be awarded a new seal on their Ontario Secondary School Diploma, acknowledging their successful dedication to skilled trades education.

What Trade Skills Are Most in Demand in Ontario?

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If you're interested in joining the trades, you couldn't have picked a better time. While it can be difficult to choose your specialisation, knowing what's most in demand can be an important factor to consider. So, here is a list compiled by Construction Ontario of the most in-demand skilled trades in the province:

  1. Electricians

  2. Carpenters

  3. Welders

  4. Plumbers

  5. HVAC Technicians

  6. Heavy Equipment Operators

  7. Industrial Mechanics

  8. Steamfitters

  9. Bricklayers

  10. Sheet Metal Workers


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Last modified 2024-05-22

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