Ont. suggests connecting with millennials to solve skilled trades shortage

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Andrew Fleetwood, left, and PCL Agile senior construction manager Terry Olynyk with the hospital bathroom module prototype.

Ontario is calling upon employers in the construction sector to find new ways to connect with millennials to solve a skilled trades shortage.

“Young people have different attitudes towards life and work than the generations before them,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development, in an address to construction leaders at a CEO breakfast co-hosted by ConstructConnect and the Toronto Construction Association. “The construction sector, along with others, needs to adjust to those changing attitudes to attract and retain talent.”

Research conducted by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development shows that people prioritize independence and want to feel confident they have been some control over their lives.

Approximately one in two young workers in the construction industry feel unsafe at their current workplace, new data shows. “Through health and safety, employers have an opportunity to show young workers they care,” said McNaughton. “If we empower young people to be able to speak up on issues of safety, if we provide them with the right mentorship and we give them all the tools, including new technology, this will go a long way towards meeting their needs.” Around 54 per cent of young workers believe safety is more important than speed or profit.

An ageing workforce is driving the shortage of skilled workers, reports the Ontario government. Over the next decade, the Canadian construction industry will need about 300,000 skilled construction workers. In the first half of 2019, about 13,000 jobs were unfilled across Ontario’s construction sector.

“The shortage of skilled workers is a looming problem,” said McNaughton. “The solution is clear. We need to end the stigma around the skilled trades, make the apprenticeship system easier to navigate and find better ways to convince businesses to participate. That is my mission.”

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