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Latest P.E.I. labour initiative looks to attract new immigrants to the trades

Don Procter
Latest P.E.I. labour initiative looks to attract new immigrants to the trades

With a shortfall of 600 tradespeople in Prince Edward Island, the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island (CAPEI) has developed a number of initiatives to draw people into the fold. The latest is Newcomers in Trades — a pilot project aimed at new immigrants in the province.

Ten students from Vietnam, China, Columbia, Albania and Syria recently landed jobs in the industry after an eight-week course put on by CAPEI, with funding from the federal and provincial governments.

Sam Sanderson, general manager of CAPEI, says while the newcomer initiative is only one means of restaffing a hungry industry, it looks like a smart move and he hopes that the association will get further funding to continue training newcomers.

“Any time you can add people into this industry there is certainly tremendous value because we are not seeing a large volume of people coming into the industry.”

Sanderson says the participants in the pilot come from diverse backgrounds, but some are “highly skilled,” including a civil engineer, architect/estimator and project manager. The participants were selected from 30 applicants for the pilot project, which gives many an opportunity to get a foothold in their chosen trade.

Janet O’Donnell, co-ordinator of the newcomers program, says the students aged 24-53 have been easy to train.

“They are all focused, committed and possibly had some background in construction and wanted to bring that into the Canadian work experience.”

Under the pilot, students spend 14 weeks working with an employer. Each receives the employer’s going pay rate based on his or her experience. The government provides a wage subsidy to employers who choose to keep students on after the 14-week trial.

 

The more opportunity we can create for our newcomers, creates an opportunity for our existing businesses,

— Sam Sanderson

Construction Association of Prince Edward Island

 

O’Donnell says two of the students are working as carpenters; another is an estimator while others are in sheet metal, painting and one has been hired as a project manager/engineer in training.

“So far, there have been no issues. They are adjusting to the labour and the weather,” she says.

The eight-week class qualifies as 240 hours towards an apprenticeship, should the students decide to go that route, says Sanderson. Students received a stipend during class.

O’Donnell says while some of the students are looking to get back into their profession, others see construction as a new career. All have enough English to get by in the industry.

One of the surprises for a number of the students, she says, is how many buildings are constructed with wood in P.E.I. Steel, concrete and other materials are more commonly used in their homelands.

During the course, students spent six days training under a journeyperson carpenter at Habitat for Humanity. They also spent a day in carpentry, electrical and welding labs at Holland College.

The course covered worksite visits and several employers were retained as guest speakers at classes.

Students all received training in WHMIS, fall protection, CPR, first-aid, and tool and site safety. There was also an overview of the types of materials and supplies typically used in construction.

Adapted from CAPEI’s Youth in Trades program, the newcomers’ course went a step further for participants, with lessons on history, government and the culture of the province, says O’Donnell, noting that students visited city hall and Province House — the provincial legislature which is under renovation — and other landmark buildings.

O’Donnell sees the pilot program as “a viable option” from traditional recruitment paths, but it remains to be seen if it will get the needed financing from government to carry on.

Sanderson says with the newcomer population growing in P.E.I., additional classes should be easy to fill.

“The more opportunity we can create for our newcomers, creates an opportunity for our existing businesses.”

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Rich millis Image Rich millis

Is there a shortage of skilled workers or a shortage of slave labour?

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