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Associations, Labour

How to find and keep skilled workers a critical focus of B.C. associations

Peter Caulfield
How to find and keep skilled workers a critical focus of B.C. associations
VRCA - Vancouver Regional Construction education manager Andrea Ringrose says contractors are too busy to attend to their HR needs. The association is offering courses in early 2020 on employee hiring and retention.

Finding, keeping and motivating a skilled and enthusiastic workforce is at the top of the of most British Columbia construction contractors’ to-do lists. 

Many contractors, however, are so busy that they don’t have time to give HR (human resources) matters the attention it needs, says Andrea Ringrose, education manager of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA).

VRCA education is offering two courses in early 2020 to help Lower Mainland contractors get a tighter grip on their HR file: Hiring in a Labour Shortage and Love Them or Lose Them: Employee Retention.

“They’re new and different,” said Ringrose.  “And they complement each other.  Hiring in a Labour Shortage teaches how to become an employer of choice to attract top-tier applicants. Love Them or Lose Them is about how to retain the best workers after they’ve been hired.”

Instruction for both courses is being provided by Vancouver-based Envol Solutions Inc.

Both eight-hour courses are aimed at managers and supervisors, business owners and HR and recruiting professionals. 

Hiring in a Labour Shortage will cover a variety of interrelated subjects, including employer branding; sourcing strategies to find and attract the right applicants; and interview skills and tools.

“On average, top candidates are on the market for only ten days,” said Brianna Blaney, who is Envol’s founder and managing partner. “How can employers possibly keep up?”

Love Them or Lose Them will look at such topics as the causes of employee turnover and the early warning signs thereof; how to engage and retain productive employees; the roles of career development, mentoring, compensation, personal development and workplace culture as retention strategies; and how to build a committed workforce.

“More than 80 percent of employees are either actively looking for a new job or are open to one,” said Blaney. “Retention begins with having the right people on the bus. Not all turnover is bad turnover. The workshop will teach participants how to identify their key players and develop strategies that keep them engaged and fulfilled with their organization.”

For more information on both courses, go to

Like their Lower Mainland counterparts, Vancouver Island contractors are concerned with attracting and holding workers.

“It’s hard to retain skilled labour,” said Rory Kulmala, CEO of Vancouver Island Construction Association (VICA).

Kulmala says the Vancouver Island construction industry is encountering what he calls demographics in action.

“We’re losing people due to retirement and they’re not being replaced quickly,” he said. “Construction is strong right across the country, so tradespeople in other parts of Canada are busy and don’t need to move to BC to find work.”

Because many construction businesses on Vancouver Island don’t have a full-time HR person, VICA is partner in a new initiative led by Allison Greaves, HR manager of Durwest Construction Management Inc.

Graves wants to set up an HR networking group for the local construction industry. VICA is sponsoring the first meeting of the group, which is taking place in January.

For more information, see

Not all western Canada construction contractors are as taxed for labour as British Columbia’s.

“We haven’t had to provide training on hiring and retention recently,” said Karen Low, president of Merit Contractors Association Saskatchewan (Merit).  “We are in a different labour market. It’s much more stable and there is less movement.”

Merit offers between 25 and 30 training courses per year in Regina and Saskatoon.

“We focus on providing the soft skills that tradespeople need to be successful in their construction careers,” said Low. “They know the trades skills, but they have to learn how to manage people.”

A few years ago, when there was a labour shortage, Merit offered courses in effective recruitment, how to deal with difficult employees, on-boarding,  training, and terminating.

“Training for contractors is tough,” says Low. “While they may ask for training, if they are too busy, or have laid off staff, they won’t invest in it. 

We’ve found best success in offering short courses and webinars that won’t take them away from the job site for too long.”

Lower Mainland construction industry consultant Helen Goodland says construction industry employers, wherever they’re located, need to start fishing in a different pond to catch the workers they need.

“Construction needs to attract good young people who are tech-savvy and wary of hard, physical outdoor labour,” says Goodland.  “The construction industry is competing with tech companies like Microsoft and Google. Young people are looking for more than just cash. Professional development, career growth opportunities and flexibility are very important to them.”

Recent Comments (4 comments)

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Johnny Masstrici Image Johnny Masstrici

All this construction activity has been fueled by low interest rates. Canadians have taken advantage of cheap money by borrowing as much as possible. They will soon hit their debt ceiling and the building boom will fizzle out and eventually collapse.

Mark Miller Image Mark Miller

This is what Building Trades Unions have done for decades. Recruit, train and retain. All these companies need to do is sign up to a Union and they will have access to a full hiring hall of trained tradespeople. The fact they would be working under a Union Collective Agreement would take care of the retention part.

Troy Robin Image Troy Robin

You’re absolutely right in your closing statement. The current culture is not in line with the current strategy. In order to be successful in retaining young employees and attract them to the trades, we need to shift our culture. This can be done through training current employee’s and bringing awareness to why this shift must occur.

Tim Image Tim

Huge contradiction in this story where the guy in Victoria says “construction is busy right across the country” and the person in Saskatchewan says it’s dead

Here is the reality, in B.C. construction prices are generally low and our costs continue to rise. Every company owner I know says they are fighting hard for every contract they can get.

The attitude of workers is that we must be getting rich and many are asking for exorbitant wages, many are talking back like they are the boss or making ridiculous claims of other job offers.

I, for one, have slowed my company down and increased my prices so that I can enjoy in my share of the riches. I won’t be spending a dime on HR.

As for the comment about unions being full of guys, that is utter B.S. I know several union companies and their union hall is empty and are sending out what ever they can find.


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