Construction Industry Needs More Women in Trades


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Residential construction faces many challenges when it comes to recruiting the new talent needed to build the housing required in the future.

BuildForce Canada reckons that to build the 3.5 million additional housing units that are needed this decade over and above what is normally built, the residential construction industry will need to grow its labour force by 83 per cent above 2023 levels – to just under 1.04 million workers.

Nationally, the construction industry will be short 85,500 workers by 2033 if we don’t get our act together.

In the not-too-distance future we could be facing a significant shortage of skilled trades – a problem that threatens to derail much-needed new housing construction.

To say that Canada’s construction labour markets are already operating under challenging conditions is the understatement of the year.

Which is why it is so critical to let young people – women in particular – know early on in life that a career in the construction trades is a viable, good-paying job option.

Many youth don’t want to go to university or college. A career in the trades could be exactly what they need.

Stigma still exists

Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma associated with being in the trades. It’s critical that we end that perception and make sure young people know early on in life that they can earn while they learn.

Ontario’s government has launched a new program to help teens who are interested in a career as a trade get started faster. The program will begin this fall for teens interested in a career in trades. From the perspective of the Residential Construction sector, it couldn’t happen fast enough.

Students who are interested in the trades can spend up to 80% of their time training and 20% on academics. The idea is to make it easier for teens who want to enter the trades.

The Focused Apprenticeship Skills Training program, as it’s known, builds on the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. It allows students in Grades 11, 12 and 13 to learn about apprenticeships through co-operative credits while still in high school. 

Through co-op, students can earn up to 11 credits. Students must still earn math and English credit in Grade 11, as well as English in Grade 12

Those who have completed their apprenticeships may apply to graduate from high school as mature student. Graduates receive a seal for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

This is a great initiative, as it allows students the opportunity to learn a trade while still remaining connected to their school.

In light of A shortage is imminentThis type of program is essential.

Numbers still low

The number of recruits – especially women – coming into the system is simply too low. There has been a rise. In Ontario, women’s participation in skilled trades in the construction industry has increased by 66% over the past decade. The province saw a 29 percent increase in female apprentice registrations for the construction trades from 2022-23 to 2023-24.

So, we are on the right track but not fast enough. Currently, only five percent of the construction workforce in Ontario is made up of women.

Another statistic paints an even more grim picture. Sadly, approximately one-third of all women who start their apprenticeship leave the industry after the first year.

Barriers still exist

It may seem insignificant, but having a separate bathroom for women can have a huge impact on their willingness to enter the trades.

In Ontario, employers will have to provide clean washrooms at their sites under the Working for Workers Five Act of 2024. Construction projects that are longer-term will also be required to provide menstrual products. The government mandated a year ago that washrooms for women on site must be available.

We must provide clean facilities to encourage women to enter the construction industry. According to a 2022 survey by Ontario Building and Construction Tradeswomen, washrooms ranked number four on a list of things that would make the construction industry more attractive.

Research has shown that women face other barriers, including a lack of support in choosing a career, and inadequate mentorship, onboarding, and ancillary support.

We are turning the corner, but more work needs to be done. We must continue to embrace the improvements and continue the conversation to meaningfully raise the number of females in construction. Legislative solutions that codify existing best practices are needed.

We cannot afford to lose this opportunity.

Richard Lyall, President of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario. He has represented Ontario’s building industry since 1991. You can reach him via [email protected]. 

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Original content by – “Construction Industry Must Boost Number Of Women In The Trades”

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