When it comes to trades apprenticeships in British Columbia, it is the open shop that is leading the way, sponsoring 82 per cent of all the apprentices in this province, according to the Industry Training Authority (ITA).
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) is the single largest sponsor of apprentices in B.C., with nearly 1,300. ICBA members, ranging from small businesses to some of Canada’s biggest construction companies, sponsor thousands and thousands more.
The numbers don’t lie. Young workers are flocking to the open shop for their apprenticeships, since that’s where the opportunity, training and work happens.
That’s why ICBA and our open shop construction members are pleased to be celebrating Apprenticeship Week this year, Feb. 8 to 14.
As we start 2021, the needs of construction contractors and workers are shifting significantly in workplaces impacted by technology and by younger workers who want choice and flexibility.
One of the many open shop companies who are leaning hard into apprenticeships is LMS Reinforcing Steel Group, a leading contractor in the reinforcing steel sector and a true B.C. construction success story.
B.C.’s Industry Training Authority reports that LMS alone sponsors more apprentices (216) than the entire Ironworkers Local 97 (206) union. That includes nine young women and 29 Indigenous apprentices – two underrepresented groups that virtually every company is trying to attract to the trades.
And that’s just apprentices. Twenty-five per cent of LMS’s general forepeople are Indigenous. There are more than 40 Indigenous workers at LMS, and more than 20 women.
Amanda Lucke is one of those women. Like 99 per cent of the hires made by LMS, Lucke joined LMS as an entry-level installer with little previous experience. Amanda worked hard to expand her knowledge and capacity as she pursued her Red Seal designation, progressing from installer to journeyperson ironworker to foreperson. Her dedication and skill were recognized every step of the way. Today, she is the training manager and safety co-ordinator for LMS.
Amanda is a shining example for all ironworkers of how LMS supports young people entering a trade and pursuing an apprenticeship.
The key to this success is the LMS Academy – a training program started by the company. Safety training begins on day one and is the primary component of the Academy’s curriculum, starting with the basics; things like how to assemble a tool belt, change a roll of wire, and make ties on pre-set walls. New hires learn how to be aware of their surroundings on a busy construction site and to lift rebar appropriately to ensure they protect themselves and their co-workers.
New workers are also aligned with an experienced field team member who formally acts as a mentor. Ninety days later, LMS sponsors the new worker as an apprentice with the ITA and continues fully-sponsored apprenticeship training on site and in class.
It’s this kind of forward thinking that has landed LMS on the list of Canada’s best managed companies for seven straight years, and why it makes regular appearances on Business in Vancouver’s fastest growing B.C. companies list.
There are times when everyone in construction should step back, look at what’s happening in the industry, and applaud the efforts of construction employers like LMS, who train workers and offer exciting opportunities for those choosing a career in construction.
It seems to us that Apprenticeship Week — when we celebrate workers and their commitment to learning a trade and building a career — is one of those times.
Construction needs more companies like LMS, recruiting and training the next generation of B.C. tradesworkers. Indeed, our economy needs more success stories like LMS, with an apprenticeship record we can all celebrate. Learning a trade offers young workers a pathway to family-supporting rewarding work, great pay and excellent benefits, and for the entrepreneurial-minded worker, a chance to start a construction business.
Chris Gardner is president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. Send comments and Industry Perspectives op-ed ideas to email@example.com.