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Economic, Labour

Labour brief: Open bidding, more apprenticeship spots are key to labour shortage, says Cardus

Ian Harvey
Labour brief: Open bidding, more apprenticeship spots are key to labour shortage, says Cardus

Moving toward open bidding and creating more apprenticeship spots for skilled trades regardless of union affiliation is critical to resolving the issues of labour supply to meet the housing shortage, says think-tank Cardus.

Renze Nauta, the program director for work and economics at Cardus, a longtime advocate of open bidding, says to meet the demand for skilled labour and the building boom driven by government investment, a rethink of how we recruit, train and deploy those workers is needed.

“I think there are two pillars here,” he says. “One is the future and the other is right now.”

Governments don’t have all the tools to resolve skilled labour shortages in the immediate time frame, he says, but they can put in place policies and strategies to resolve it for the near future.

“One is promote skilled trades as a viable and lucrative career path, and we don’t do that enough,” he says, though recent moves by the Ontario government to promote trades for credits in high school are a good step forward.

“However, I think in post-secondary education colleges need to have a more equitable share of the funding for trades,” he says, adding there also needs to be an off ramp from the academic university path to transfer into skilled trades without necessitating starting from scratch. “We need to ensure that skilled trades get a fair share of the money in education.”

None of these will solve the issue overnight, he adds, but other factors like open tendering will open up government projects to non-union contractors and that in turn will create more opportunities for apprentices.

“We need to find a happy medium here,” he says. “One that is flexible. Right now the money in post-secondary isn’t really meeting the needs of the current labour market.”

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