Alberta construction industry funds scholarships to fill worker shortages

A looming labor shortage has led construction industry leaders to raise millions of dollars for scholarships to lure more people into the industry.

The heads of SAIT, homebuilder Jayman Built and industry association BILD Alberta announced a scholarship fund of more than $7 million on Tuesday to help 1,400 students pursue construction education.

Jay Westman, chief executive of Jayman Built, said scholarships should help shore up job vacancy rates that have risen “at an alarming rate” since the turn of the century, “making them the biggest problem and the toughest in the industry”. has ever faced.

Westman said the decline in the number of tradespeople has tripled the time homes are built.

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“In other words, we’re not building more houses, it just takes longer,” Westman said.

Drawing on his more than four decades in homebuilding, Westman said recent interest rate increases below all-time highs would likely retard demand.

And he said building materials like timber have suffered supply chain shocks that have seen prices rise and fall, but labor availability has continued to deteriorate, driving up prices. expectations and salaries.

Jayman Built CEO says he has worked with other construction and home building companies to raise money for the scholarship, setting a new goal of $15 million, helping around 3,000 students from all walks of life .

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“(Thanks to) the support and contributions I had already received, it was clear that this issue facing the industry is entirely provincial,” Westman said, challenging other construction companies to donate to the stock market. “We are going to need everyone.

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SAIT President Dr. David Ross said the new scholarships under construction will help students at his school and NAIT, as well as outreach to young people in rural and urban high schools.

Ross said that with a recession on the horizon, providing support for skilled trades training now could help the industry for years to come.

“There is a critical shortage in all trades in the province,” Ross told Global News. “And even if there is a recession, we think the gap is such that we have to work very hard to make sure we create the support necessary for more apprentices to enter the different sectors of the industry, including including residential construction.”

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To just under 10% of workers, the construction sector is the third largest employer in the province.

Scott Fash, executive director of BILD ALberta, said last year that residential construction accounts for more than 120,000 jobs and $8.8 billion in wages. But he noted that one in five skilled workers is expected to retire before 2030.

“Skilled trades are an essential part of building affordable, safe and energy-efficient homes in this province. These are incredibly well-paying and rewarding careers, and we need to do a better job of promoting them and removing all barriers to entry,” Fash said.

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A SAIT press release says tuition for apprenticeship and diploma programs in fields such as carpentry, plumbing, sheet metal workers, electricians and glaziers can exceed $5,000.

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