BY RICHARD GILBERT - The federal and B.C. governments have signed a deal on the Canada Job Grant, which aims to increase the supply of tradespeople to meet the demand for construction over the next decade.
“At this point, we are pleased that an agreement has been reached between Minister Bond and Minister Kenney,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
“These ministers have shown leadership that will help workers get the skills they need. The PCA is looking forward to the next stage of consultations because we would like to help both the federal and provincial government with the details of the program.”
B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Shirley Bond and Federal Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney signed an agreement in principle for the Canada Job Grant on March 11.
The program is designed to encourage greater employer participation in skills training decisions and ensure that training is better aligned with job opportunities, particularly in sectors facing skills mismatches and labour shortages.
“We know the province has questions about how this program will be implemented,” said de Jong.
“So, we would like to work with them to ensure the employers are able to provide the necessary input, which will allow the right workers to get the right jobs.”
De Jong said the PCA has supported the Canada Job Grant from the start and will continue to work with Bond to ensure the program is accessible to all B.C. employers and doesn’t burden them with excessive administration.
The Canada Job Grant will provide up to $15,000 per person for training costs, including tuition and training materials.
This includes up to $10,000 in federal contributions.
De Jong and Bond said there is a skilled labour shortage in B.C. and the problem will increase as LNG projects are developed.
According to BuildForce Canada, B.C. construction employment is expected to grow by more than 15,800 workers between 2014–2023.
Over the same period, replacement demand due to retirements will require about 34,000.
New entrants from the younger population are estimated at more than 23,700.
On balance, the B.C. construction industry will need to recruit more than 26,100 workers from outside the local market.
As a result, there will be significant labour demand for tradespeople in B.C.
BuildForce predicts new construction activity will increase employment to a new record level by 2017, as four LNG projects, with related pipeline work, are assumed to start up.
The National Energy Board has approved LNG export licences for eight proposed projects in B.C.
A study produced by Grant Thornton for the B.C. government commissioned in 2013 estimates that the construction of five LNG projects will generate an average of 39,400 full time equivalent jobs annually over a nine-year construction period.
Over this period, construction of five LNG projects is expected to generate 102,500 direct full time jobs.
The premiers of Canada’s provinces and territories reached an agreement in principle with the federal government on the Canada Job Grant on Feb. 28.
However, the premiers wanted several changes due to serious concerns about the design of the program.
These changes included:
The elimination of the cost-matching requirement for provinces and territories;
The allocation of a greater proportion of the Labour Market Agreement for existing programming for vulnerable workers; and
Reviewing the program by the end of 2015 which is a critical step to ensure it is meeting the needs of Canadians and employers.
As a result of this deal, the provinces and territories started the process of finalizing the renewal of bilateral Labour Market Agreements.
“It’s a good thing that the province is getting a deal in writing, but they need to stop talking and get started with the program,” said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
“Now that an agreement has been reached, in terms of money, they will start the process of reviewing all the provincial employment programs. This is a good thing because the funding and operation of these programs should be reviewed on a regular basis.”
The Canada Job Grant is a priority in the 2014 federal budget, which was presented to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Ottawa on Feb. 11.
Initially, the provinces and territories refused to agree to the original proposal, which was the centrepiece of the 2013 federal budget.
At this time, the provinces and territories were expected to contribute on average one-third of the total costs of training or $5,000
Ontario became the first province to sign a Job Grant agreement with the federal government on March 6.