Two panels at Buildex Vancouver are all about British Columbia’s construction industry getting more international workers into the country and getting paid more quickly.
British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) president Chris Atchison will head up two panels at the upcoming Buildex Vancouver conference, the construction keynote titled, Welcoming Skilled Workers and Newcomers to Canada to Build BC’s Workforce: Solutions to the Skilled Labour Shortage in Our Province on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and Navigating Prompt Payment Legislation in British Columbia: Current Landscape and Industry Impacts on Thursday, Feb. 15.
Speaking to the Journal of Commerce, Atchison elaborated on the need to streamline and modify the immigration process to target people with the right set of skills to suitable work. He said progress has been made on the provincial front but more needs to be done.
“The industry needs more trained tradespeople, and the new B.C. provincial nominee program stream for skilled workers is good news. Providing that path to permanent residency so employers can keep workers in B.C. with a permanent status is a welcome change that will benefit employers and employees alike,” he said. “We’re seeing some movement and awareness on the provincial side that there’s a skills gap, here’s a cohort, and the provincial government is seeing what it can do to help Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada see that we can lead as a province.”
Atchison cautioned all current skills-based immigration is tied to a job offer and more flexibility is required for construction employers.
“It’s asking a lot of employers of our industry to sponsor someone for a year where there’s uncertainty in the marketplace. We know we’ll be working, and that individuals coming into the country can be working but we don’t always know that they’ll be working for an entire year without interruption. That’s just not the nature of construction, it’s project-based,” he said.
Atchison suggested entities such as construction associations and other informed stakeholders could conceivably play a part in bringing new workers to Canada.
“We’ve been pushing the province in the hope they’ll give nominations based on skills rather than a job offer. Why not let an entity like BCCA, an association or industry-serving group with a lot of acumen in workforce development, provide the assurance that those who have the skills and the desire to work will have continuous job offers?” he said.
“We can provide services and support to ensure that happens rather than pinning it on the employer (who has to) figure out and navigate the nuances of a system, bringing a newcomer into Canada which we welcome, but why make it harder on both parties then we need to?”
The prompt payment panel at Buildex Vancouver will consist of major contractors, a construction lawyer and a representative from the ministry of B.C.’s attorney general, who is also convening a broad stakeholder group to examine the cross-jurisdictional analysis of prompt payment legislation provided to the ministry by BCCA in the fall.
“This was a mammoth undertaking, comparing all the legislation from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and the federal government and laying the legislation out line by line. The working group is going through that line by line and saying, ‘which one is best for B.C. and what modifications do we need?’” Atchison said.
“When the province and the attorney general are ready to draft legislation they’ll have a blueprint. We’re learning from (other provinces) best practices, their mistakes and finding our stream.”
He added he will emphasize at the Buildex Vancouver panel that the passing of recent federal prompt payment legislation could be the linchpin that pushes prompt payment forward in B.C.
Previously, Atchison said, the B.C. government had indicated it understood the urgency from the construction side but wanted to wait until federal legislation was in place.
“Now they have that and so have other provinces, so we’ve got no hindrance other than the priority of the (provincial) government to make this a reality,” he said.