Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I was quoted extensively in the Daily Commercial news, Canada's national construction industry daily.

United Association Local 46 director, immigration lawyer react to skilled labour shortage – Daily Commercial News

December 20, 2011

United Association Local 46 director, immigration lawyer react to skilled labour shortage

staff writer
The looming labour shortage has many members of the construction industry trying to come up with new solutions.
The baby boomers are one of the main reasons why the industry is facing a shortage of 100,000 workers in Ontario, according to the Construction Sector Council.
Vince Kacaba, a Director of Training at UA Local 46, says the perception of the trades is also a contributing factor.
“(It’s) seen as a dumping ground for those who can’t get into university,” said the plumber who has three university degrees, including a master’s.
He also sees the emergence of a high-tech society as a factor as many students become interested in those fields, but also as children grow up now with a reliance on more computers and high-tech equipment, many don’t have the dexterity that previous generations have had because of lack of playing with toys that promote building.
“We recognized the shortcoming early. That has allowed us to drop our average age,” said Kacaba.
Their average age of plumbers has dropped from 51 to 43; steamfitters from 55 to 47 and welders from 57 to 46.
They have also pursued non-traditional sources like women and Aboriginal people and conducted outreach programs.
One of the issues they are currently facing is keeping apprentices employed throughout their apprenticeship.
“If I can’t keep them working, then they drift off,” he said, adding that they have a 95 per cent completion rate.
Industry also has to change the culture that currently sees apprentices as hired last and laid-off first.
“They’re the future<0x2026>an investment.”
The temporary foreign worker is another option to help ease the labour shortage and the program is being used in many different sectors, not just construction.
Labour market opinions (LMO) are the most common way for foreign workers to become employed in Canada.
“There are thousands who are requiring a labour market opinion;they have no means of getting to Canada other than an employer offering them a job,” described Sergio Karas, an immigration lawyer with Karas & Associates.
An LMO is for up to two years with possibility of renewable for up to four years total and then they have to leave Canada.
In order to acquire an LMO, Service Canada has to be satisfied that: the employer made adequate, ongoing efforts including youth, aboriginals, Canadians; wages must be at prevailing rates; working conditions must be same as for Canadians; unionized positions require union clearance; and advertising is required.
But the processing time for LMOs have substantially increased to the point where the Ontario Bar Association is meeting with the government to see if it can be changed. It has gone from a three-week maximum to a 12-week maximum.
“I don’t think any business can operate on 12 weeks waiting time for a decision on a labour market opinion,” said Karas.
Other ways to help ease the labour shortage will be engaging older workers to stay on in a training or job-sharing capacity and creating more mobility of certifications: within the country. But the temporary foreign worker program will be one of the big ways Ontario gets through the crunch.
“[The Temporary Foreign Worker Program] is not a bad way for Canada to pursue in order to address shortages;an employee with a job is a happy employee. An immigrant with a job is a happy immigrant,” said Karas.

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