Feeling the labour shortage? A new program helps businesses train and retain workers


Special to Ottawa Construction News

As Ontario’s economy continues its slow rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are confronting a new challenge: a worker shortfall.

Employers in all sectors are feeling the squeeze of the tight pandemic labour market, but the construction industry has been hit particularly hard. In a recent Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, 33.8% of employers in construction reported that recruiting and retaining qualified workers was an obstacle to their business — the highest proportion of all sectors.

“In an industry already short on workers before the pandemic, employers are reporting more difficulty finding and retaining skilled hires,” says Samira Afrand, project manager at the Eastern Ontario College Consortium/Consortium des Collèges de l’Est de l’Ontario (EOCC-CCEO), a coalition of five Eastern Ontario colleges that came together to support the training needs of key growth sectors in the area. “We want them to know that there are free programs out there, like the EOCC-CCEO, that are tailor-made to address the workforce challenges they’re facing right now.”

The EOCC-CCEO offers innovative, sector-based training to help businesses onboard new talent and upskill and retain existing employees. Recognizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to training, the organization works with employers to offer tailored solutions in the full range of workforce development areas, including custom onboarding videos, mandatory health and safety training — such as first aid, machine and equipment safety, and COVID-related health and safety courses — construction project management, supervisory training, construction technologies, stress management, general labourer training and more.

The program is not only free for eligible employers but also designed to avoid common perceived pitfalls of funded training, like heavy paperwork, lengthy application processes and inflexible scheduling.

“We know that formal training can seem like a luxury at a time like this, especially for smaller businesses, and we work closely with employers to coordinate on their terms and create solutions that work for them,” says Afrand. “Based on feedback from our advisory panel made up of Eastern Ontario construction business owners, we launched a construction eLearning portal, which includes over a hundred construction health and safety courses, to bring more flexibility and control to learners and support training during off hours.”

Funded by the province’s SkillsAdvance Ontario pilot project, the EOCC-CCEO is one of a number of new initiatives by the government to provide free training opportunities and address rising concern about skills shortages in Canada. While there’s no easy solution to the pipeline problem in construction and other industries, experts are unanimous that employer investment in workforce training and development is critical to moving forward.

In a competitive, high-turnover labour environment where there’s always a risk of losing workers to a better offer, many employers are understandably reluctant to invest in their teams. But research — including a new survey of Canadian companies by The Harris Poll and staffing firm Express Employment Professionals — shows that businesses committed to staff training and growth have better employee engagement and lower churn than those that don’t offer these opportunities.

What’s more, costs associated with training, including the temporary loss of productivity as workers are pulled from the job site, are quickly recouped in the form of efficiency gains, retention benefits and better health and safety performance.

In the midst of the labour shortage, employers have an opportunity to build a team that can take them into the future with better resilience, competitiveness and profitability.

If you can’t find qualified workers, create them. To learn more about this unique program, contact the EOCC at info@eocc.ca, call 1-844-853-0326 or visit https://eocc-cceo.ca/support-for-construction-employers/.

How the EOCC helps construction employers – YouTube




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