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British Columbia needs skilled labour


With $2.9 billion worth of capital projects already underway and another $6.2 billion forecast over the next five years, the province of British Columbia could be entering a period of prosperity it hasn’t seen in decades.

New projects in transportation, construction and natural resources are expected to create more than one million jobs over the next 10 years.

However, BC faces the challenge of a looming shortage of skilled tradespeople as veteran workers prepare for retirement. Current trends suggest the province will face a shortage of at least 160,000 skilled workers by 2015.

So will BC be able to keep up with demand?

Ardalan Fard, general manager at Archway Construction, thinks so. He believes employers can solve BC’s labour demands by hiring more skilled immigrants.

“I immigrated to Canada and remember how hard I worked,” says Fard. “I know that many immigrants already have valuable work experience and training, but they need Canadian certification.”

Out of Fard’s 27 employees, seven are apprentices and many are skilled immigrants.

Fard recently hired Jun Sung Moon as a carpenter apprentice. Moon, 34, had moved from South Korea to pursue a career in interior design.

Struggling to have his work experience recognized, Moon entered the Skilled Trades Employment Program and found he had a natural aptitude for carpentry.

The program, which is managed by the BC Construction Association and funded by the Immigrants in Trades Training initiative, introduced Moon to Archway Construction. After a trial shift, he was hired full-time.

Immigrants in Trades Training connects skilled immigrants to training opportunities across British Columbia. It is overseen by the Industry Training Authority, the provincial crown agency responsible for managing BC’s trades training and apprenticeship system, and funded through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Agreement.

“When we hired Jun, he had all the right skills and just needed Canadian experience,” Fard recalls. “Hiring him was a great investment.”

Now a registered apprentice, Jun says he hopes to become a certified carpenter. He offers this piece of advice for other immigrants interested in the trades: “Work hard, and don't be afraid to ask for help – it’s there if you need it.”

Dave Cummings, the foreman at Systems Mechanical, a local construction company that employs more than 35 tradespeople and apprentices, some of whom are skilled immigrants, also believes that employers can prepare for this labour shortage by hiring more skilled immigrants and apprentices.

“With more skilled workers retiring, apprentices and skilled immigrants are invaluable to our company's future,” he says. “Many skilled immigrants already have the right work experience and training, and just need Canadian certification – we know they can get the job done.”

As foreman, Cummings recently started working with Vasile Covaza, a plumber apprentice from Romania.

Covaza, 45, had construction experience before moving to Canada, but struggled to find work in BC. His search for an English course led him to the Immigrants in Trades Training program offered through Diversecity Community Resources Society.

The program helped Covaza develop a resumé and find a job in the plumbing industry. Now a registered apprentice in his third year of training, Covaza plans to become a Red Seal certified plumber.

While Cummings is relieved to have a skilled employee he can count on, Covaza says he is happy to finally work at a job he loves.

He offers this piece of advice for other people in his situation: “The trades are a rewarding career choice. Find a resource to help you and don’t give up.”

More info at www.IITTapprentices.ca.
– News Canada

Posted: Jan 31, 2013

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