The Northwest Territories and Nunavut Construction Association (NNCA) has come up with a novel approach to matching construction employers with potential workers: a reverse job board (RJB) in which job candidates post their resumes online for potential employers to view.
The growing list of names on the RJB along with links to their resumes is emailed twice a week to about 320 NNCA subscribers, many of whom are estimators for contractor and supplier members of the association. Those subscribers also get a job bid list for the two territories.
“They (estimators) can do a quick scan of our report (on the pool of labor in a community) before they dive into the projects they are interested in,” Matt Belliveau, executive director of the NNCA, says.
While contractors, their subs, materials suppliers and even government agencies have wanted to see more locals hired for projects, it has been difficult to access labor pools in the many small and often remote communities over the vast stretch of the two territories.
“People who are looking for work may be overlooked and that is especially difficult for those in apprenticeships who need hours,” Belliveau says. “If they go too long without a project, then their apprenticeship can stall.”
The job board was started in early January and was at about 20 workers at press time, but that number is expected to grow rapidly since the association placed a Facebook ad about the RJB, he says.
Many of the workers on the job board are young, he points out, noting that some of them have work experience with “gaps” because of a lack of steady employment in their community.
If these workers are willing to move around a bit, they are going to get those apprenticeship hours easily,
— Matt Belliveau
Northwest Territories and Nunavut Construction Association
Belliveau says while years ago contractors had access through government sources to the names of registered apprentices in the territories, that information is unavailable today.
The Reverse Job Board “fills that (information) gap without requiring a lot of resources (and costs),” he says.
Belliveau says the emails that the NNCA sends out to members are tailored to be a quick read so contractors don’t have to pore over a lot of information and log onto various websites to access information about bid opportunities. “We want to keep this simple.”
Contractors in Yellowknife have good reason to welcome the RJB. The hub city of the territories is home to about a third of the construction association’s membership, but a lot of projects use contractors and/or workers from the south.
Yellowknife is easy to get to from southern Canada and its airport is among the 20 busiest in Canada, says Belliveau, adding that both territories see a lot of southern contractors working in all communities.
He points out that it makes economic sense for northern contractors to hire locally because they don’t have to pay transportation plus room and board expenses. Even if northern workers must travel to different parts of the territories, it is still less expensive than flying in labor from the south.
“If these workers are willing to move around a bit, they are going to get those apprenticeship hours easily,” he adds.
There are incentives for hiring local workers. In Nunavut, for example, there are “bid adjustment” allowances for contractors hiring Inuit labor, he says.
The job board is open to apprentices and non-apprentices, including “those who are just beginning a career in the trades,” Belliveau says
He says job candidates can include House Maintainers, a trade only registered in the Northwest Territories. The trade covers basic skills in carpentry, plumbing, electrical and other areas required to maintain homes. “It gets very expensive to send someone into a community if there is no one there that can do this kind of work.”
The NNCA’s jurisdiction includes more than 50 communities in about three million square kilometres — probably the largest area covered by any construction association in Canada. “We have resumes coming in from many small communities, which is what we were looking for.”
Belliveau says the construction association (which has 150 members) has reached out about the job board to many organizations, including indigenous governments, MLAs and schools.