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P.E.I. tackles need for workers head on with recruitment video

Don Procter
P.E.I. tackles need for workers head on with recruitment video

As construction continues to flourish in Prince Edward Island — building permits were up 27 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 over the same period last year — the province faces a growing shortage of construction workers.

But the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island (CAPEI) isn’t taking the skills scarcity sitting down. In June it launched a video aimed at recruitment — which follows its Facebook page – Island Builder — also targeting “recruiting and retaining tradespeople,” says Sam Sanderson, general manager of the association.

With clips of young construction workers, industry experts and an experienced contractor, the fast-paced one-minute video lets viewers know the province needs workers now, in the next little while and over the long term as the province’s population grows quickly, says Sanderson.

The video targets young locals thinking about going back to school, newcomers to the province and even former residents living in other provinces.

“If someone is watching the video in Alberta and they are from Prince Edward Island it will make them think about the prospect of moving back,” says Sanderson, noting the association’s received a few calls already about the thriving construction economy from curious westerners.

The video was viewed about 5,300 times in its first two weeks on the association’s Facebook page. It is also on LinkedIn and it has been shared on other provincial construction association sites, he says.

“I’m very optimistic because every week we’re seeing an improvement” in the number of people entering the industry, he says. “In some weeks seven or eight jobs are filled, but if we fill only one job a week, it is an improvement over the week we had before.”

In the fall, Sanderson says the association will promote the video through television spots and take it to secondary and post-secondary schools.

Sanderson says construction is surging in all sectors, both public and private.

In the first quarter of 2019, estimated permit value was more than $102 million, he says. “In some areas of Canada that may not be a big number but here…those are huge numbers.”

“There are probably not many contractors…that are not looking for (to hire) somebody,” he says, noting that carpenters top the demand list, but other sparse trades include stone masons, electricians and plumbers.

While projects haven’t been cancelled or halted because of labor shortages, “we are certainly seeing a few little delays.”

A 2019 BuildForce Canada report forecasts that P.E.I. will see a shortfall of close to 1,000 building trades workers in the next decade.

Sanderson says attracting women — “our biggest resource” — to the building trades is essential but the province also needs to draw more newcomers to the province and indigenous communities — “the fastest growing population in Canada.”

He says so far this year the CAPEI has placed 52 young people in entry level construction jobs through its youth in trades program. “It’s been very valuable.” Meanwhile, a pilot project geared to the indigenous community on the west end of P.E.I. has been “tremendously successful.”

The association’s general manager says like elsewhere in Canada, the province’s construction industry is experiencing change spearheaded by innovative technology — which will give construction a new face.

“For so long this industry has been considered a second-class lifestyle.” That is changing, he says.

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