Need help finding and retaining employees? There’s help for that

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By Jeffrey Street
Special to Ottawa Construction News

A recent Canadian Survey on Business Conditions revealed that 33.8% of employers in the construction sector felt that recruiting and retaining qualified workers was an obstacle to their success — the highest proportion among those canvassed.

To attract workers, construction can make a case that it offers better-paying, more secure jobs and career opportunities, provided people have some basic skills needed to get started. At the same time, employers need to be mindful of what they can do to keep their workers engaged and motivated. That’s where training as a business strategy enters the picture.

Samira Afrand
Samira Afrand

“In an industry already short on workers before the pandemic, employers are seeking help on many fronts, including preparing people to enter the workforce and keeping them there,” 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 available, such as the EOCC-CCEO, that are tailor-made to address the challenges they’re facing right now.”

The consortium 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, it works with employers to offer customized solutions in a full range of workforce development areas, including 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, such as 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 so we work closely with employers to coordinate on their terms and create solutions that work for them,” says Afrand. “Based on feedback from our construction advisory committee and local business owners, for example, we launched our construction eLearning portal — which includes over a hundred construction health and safety courses and this brings more flexibility and control to learners and supports 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 the midst of an ongoing labour shortage, employers have an opportunity to build a team that can take them into the future with better resilience, competitiveness and profitability.
To learn more about this unique program, contact the EOCC at, call 1-844-853-0326 or visit


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