Building Trades executive director says B.C. needs more apprentices on major projects

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The value of having more apprentices working on large-scale construction projects were the main topics of a speech by BC Buildings Trades Council executive director Tom Sigurdson at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.

Sigurdson, whose organization represents a number of construction trade unions including those representing bricklayers; plumbers, plasterers; millwrights; and ironworkers among many others, spoke about the need for community benefit agreements to be implemented on all large public projects in B.C. In his presentation, he explained that those agreements will help alleviate a skilled labour shortage that the province will be facing over the next decade.

Sigurdson said that though a number of large infrastructure projects are either planned or already underway in B.C., forecasts show that there will be roughly 7,600 less skilled trades workers in the province. He cited Royal City Record news article from several years ago, which said that one in eight high school students would need to follow a career path in the construction industry.

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He said that by having apprentices comprise 25 percent of the workforce on large-scale projects, it will help ensure that those apprentices become Red Seal-certified tradespeople that will be able to work anywhere across Canada. 

Sigurdson has in the past criticized the lack of apprentices working on the Site C project. According to BC Hydro’s statistics, the apprentice population working on Site C peaked last July, when there were 62 apprentices out of a total contractor workforce of 2,145. That works out to just 2.8 percent of contractors. The number of apprentices working on Site C fell to its lowest level in December 2017 and January 2018, when the total was just eight.

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