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Benefits, training key to attracting women to the trades: ICBA

Jordan Bateman/ICBA
Benefits, training key to attracting women to the trades: ICBA

Want the best and the brightest — male or female — to come work for your company? Offering a great benefits package and ongoing skills development are key to attracting and keeping good people.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) helps its over 2,000 member companies and clients do both, through its ICBA Benefits and professional development training programs.

"Competition for top workers is fierce, especially in a hot construction job market like British Columbia," said Chris Gardner, ICBA president. "Companies need to think about not only how they can continue to develop their own talent, but also how to keep them by offering the best benefits possible, in a cost-effective way."

With more than 200,000 people working in construction in B.C., making up nine per cent of the provincial economy, the need for good, fairly-priced benefits packages has become an imperative for construction companies of all sizes.

Through its benefits company, ICBA Benefits (, ICBA is one of the largest third-party providers of group and retirement benefits in B.C., dedicated to meeting the unique health and benefit insurance needs of its customers. While its clients include construction companies large and small, ICBA Benefits also services companies in every sector of the economy.

"Employers wanting to encourage more women to work in construction jobs should take a long look at the benefits they offer," said Liza Bugar, consulting services manager for ICBA Benefits. "Are they offering benefits that people can use? Are they adequately taking care of their employees and their families? And are they helping their staff put money aside for their retirement? Companies that do these things have the inside track at recruiting and keeping staff."

The B.C. government’s training organization lists better benefits as a best practice for employing women in the trades. "A benefits package will attract a wider group of potential employees and will make you more competitive with other employers," reports the Industry Training Authority.

"Women especially place a high priority on benefits for themselves and their families."

ICBA Benefits offers a variety of cost-effective plans to do just that.

"Our clients have told us that enhancing medical and dental coverage and offering retirement savings plans help them attract more women to their companies," said Leah Rennie, director of member and client services for ICBA Benefits. "It just makes good business sense to look after good people and demonstrate that you care."

But benefits aren’t enough. Giving women the opportunity to grow, challenge themselves and improve their skills is another way to keep them in your company.

To that end, ICBA will offer more than 250 construction and professional development courses this year, training more than 3,500 people. The courses range from construction estimating to fall protection and from trenching and excavation safety to project management and leadership skills.

"If you need to train the people on your team and help them enhance their skills, we have a course for it," said Sabine Just, ICBA’s director of training. "We offer a wide variety of open enrollment, in-house and custom courses to help companies further develop their employees so they can build a stronger workforce."

Just’s team travels around B.C. and the Yukon, running classes in a dozen cities. They have also created a variety of online courses. ICBA offers the largest pool of Gold Seal-credited courses in Canada, and is an official BC Housing-recognized provider of professional development courses to homebuilders.

ICBA is also B.C.’s single largest sponsor of trades apprentices, managing apprentices at more than 150 member companies. ICBA handles the paperwork and offers completion incentives so companies can do what they do best — keep people working.

Just points to a trend over the past few years of mid-20s college graduates, frustrated by limited job opportunities, seeking jobs in construction after a few years out of school.

"These are people — many of them women — who have been out of school for a few years, often with a college degree, who decide to leave entry-level or service jobs and enter the trades," said Just. "It’s an interesting new phenomenon, and one we hope to encourage. Jobs in construction and the trades are a wonderful way to earn a living and support a family and work anywhere in the province or across Canada, at whatever age someone comes into the industry."

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