CANADIAN CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION
The House of Commons
Standing Committee on Finance
75 Albert Street, Suite 400 Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5E7
Tel: (613) 236-9455 Fax: (613) 236-9526
Canadian Construction Association
August 2008 Page 2
In order for Canada as a Nation to meet its current human resource challenges, (i.e. aging workforce, re-training of
older and displaced workers; integration of traditionally under-represented groups such as Aboriginal Canadians;
training and integration of immigrants; meeting the needs of industry in a more timely and collaborative manner),
much more enhanced strategic investment in Canada’s community colleges is required. These publicly-funded
institutions are best positioned to deliver on all of the aforementioned fronts. However, through years of
underfunding and neglect, most do not possess the physical and human infrastructure to meet the increasing demand
on their resources.
The federal government has a clear leadership role to play in ensuring this key element of Canada’s apprenticeship
and supervisory training infrastructure is adequately funded and supported in order to meet that demand.
Since 1918, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has served as the collective national voice for
Canada’s non-residential construction industry representing some 15,000 individual construction firms
located throughout Canada in an industry that contributes over 6% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product
and that employs more than 1.22 million Canadian men and women. 1 out of every 14 people in the
workforce today works in the construction industry.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has asked that Pre-Budget briefs contain one
recommendation only and that it reflect the author’s most important federal program spending or taxation
priority. CCA feels that the need to enhance infrastructure funding for Canada’s community colleges is
critical to Canada meeting its skills shortage challenge and that leadership is required at the federal level.
The Training Need
The Construction Sector Council (CSC) recently released its updated review of the current construction
labour market in Canada. That analysis concludes that the construction industry in Canada will need to
engage over 250,000 new trained construction workers by 2016 simply to replace retiring workers and to
keep pace with rising demand. In addition, the CSC says that the industry nationally must find some
15,500 new construction supervisors by 2025, (i.e. 21% of the 2006 labour force!).
Construction labour shortages present significant challenges for everyone. Impacts include:
Longer completion times
Lower quality of work.
Greater safety concerns.
Higher overall costs, due to less tendering competition and higher labour costs. Given
that many construction projects are taxpayer funded, higher costs results in greater
pressure on limited tax dollars.
Reduced capacity to compete internationally.
Many of Canada’s construction workers, both trades and supervisors, are trained by Canada’s
community colleges. A good many are Civil Engineering Technologists recruited from the colleges.
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August 2008 Page 3
Virtually all construction trades are trained via the apprenticeship system in Canada. Apprenticeship
programs combine classroom training with workplace experience, with roughly 20 percent of the typical
program being delivered in the classroom and 80 percent in the workplace. As a major provider of the
classroom training community colleges have an indispensable role in provincial and territorial
apprenticeship systems across Canada. Statistics Canada says that skilled trades – those usually
requiring a community college diploma or apprenticeship training – have not kept pace with the labour
force as a whole – they accounted for 30% of the total labour force in 2001 down from 32 percent a
The construction industry is not the only industry that is in desperate need of college graduates. Many
other industries equally rely on the college system to produce their future skilled workforce. The
construction industry is competing with them for an ever-shrinking pool of skilled labour.
The Federal Government has made public commitments to attracting more youth to the trades and to
supporting apprenticeship training. Earlier this year, the Federal Government pledged $5.5 million over
the next 3 years to groups like the CSC and the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF).
“As you know, our Government has made somewhat of a mission of encouraging smart,
ambitious young people to consider a future in the trades. We’ve done more that just run
some ads to encourage this career path. We’ve introduced some financial measures to
support it. - an Apprenticeship Incentive Grant to reduce the cost of schooling, a Job
Creation Tax Credit to reward employers who hire apprentices and a Tools Tax Credit to
render buying tolls less expensive for tradespeople.
Now, why have we done these things? We have because in the years to come, Canada is
going to need literally hundreds of thousands of skilled tradesmen and women.
Skilled trades are the backbone of our economy. That’s why we have to make sure the
next generation of carpenters, welders, pipefitters and others will be there when we need
them.” (Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Sarnia Construction Association’s
annual construction apprentice graduation ceremonies - May 22, 2008 Sarnia, ON)
The very useful measures referenced by the Prime Minister have been matched by the construction
industry efforts to recruit more youth, Aboriginal people, and displaced workers from other sectors.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that these new recruits are being turned away due to the lack of training
capacity in our community colleges. We have created a training “bottle-neck” that must be widened.
Not only is there greater demand being placed on the colleges due to the huge skilled trade shortage, but
also due to the growing recognition by both parents and high school students that universities are no
longer the only post-secondary education vehicle. A college education is being promoted much more to
students and their parents by high school career counselors.
At a time when industries like construction are in desperate need of people, and when we are having to
import tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers to fill the gap, and when the demand for training is
clearly present, it is simply unconscionable that we are having to tell young Canadians, Aboriginal and
older, displaced workers wanting to pursue a career in the construction industry “sorry, we have no room
The College Deficit
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August 2008 Page 4
Because of past neglect, the college system in Canada is now unable to provide the effective and modern
training we and other industries like the construction industry desperately require if we are to build the
prosperous, environmentally-friendly Canada of the future.
Many college facilities across Canada were built 40-45 years ago, with an expected lifespan of roughly 40
years. These institutions have not been able to perform the appropriate maintenance or upkeep of those
facilities let alone expand to meet increasing demand. A July 2008 study conducted by the Association of
Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) estimates that the community college system in Canada needs
an immediate injection of some $6.5 billion simply to retrofit or upgrade their aging physical infrastructure
to secure existing capacity.
The status of teaching equipment is not much better. College training is in large measure a practical,
hands-on experience. Employers expect graduates will be familiar with contemporary technologies. In
the recent ACCC survey, however, no institution reported an adequate inventory of leading edge
equipment and most reported making due with used or recycled equipment. One institution reported that
85% of its equipment used in trades programs is below the current standard.
Although industry partners donate some equipment, the gap in equipment availability remains
considerable, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars for the system.
Many colleges also do not possess the human resource capacity in terms of qualified faculty and
instructors to deliver the expanded programs and courses required as a result of the rising demand.
Once again the funding neglect of the past has led to reduced teaching capacity.
Colleges are under intense pressure to meet Canada’s growing need for highly skilled workers, yet given
the lack of funding even to sustain infrastructure let alone expand it, there is no prospect of increasing the
output of graduates so desperately needed by many sectors.
In the recent survey, forty programs in one institution were reported to be oversubscribed. The ratio of
qualified applicants to spaces available varies by program from a low of 2 to 1, to a high of 18 to 1. All
institutions reported an immediate need for facilities, equipment and instructional support, to meet the
demand for graduates. Quantification of the investment needed is a complex exercise but the ACCC
study suggests that upwards of $1,000,000,000 could be used immediately.
Several institutions have wait lists of upwards of 9,000 people for skilled trades programs. As an
example, Algonquin College in Ottawa advises that it has received over 39,000 applications in their
trades programs for 7,400 available first-year spaces. Red River College in Winnipeg has a waiting list of
three years for their Carpentry Program. Many on these wait lists are Aboriginals, women, and those
recently employed in the manufacturing sector.
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Canada’s community colleges have been forgotten. In many ways they have been treated over the last
20 to 30 years as poor cousins to universities. Canadian Governments, including the federal
government, have focused on university funding while neglecting our colleges. The following is a list of
just some of the investments that the federal government has made in Canada’s universities over the
past ten years:
In 2006, the 3 granting councils which fund university research had a combined budget of $1.6
In 2003, Ottawa created a $225 million fund for indirect costs of research, which has since
increased to $300 million annually, paying for items such as maintaining facilities and resources
and providing support systems such as computers or equipment.
In 1997 the Canada Foundation for Innovation was created, supporting funding for mostly
university-based infrastructure. Almost $4 billion in federal funds have been spent on the CFI.
In 2000, the Canada Research Chairs program was created, with $300 million annually spent to
attract leading edge university faculty.
The Canada Graduate Scholarships were created in 2003 which supports 2,000 Masters
students and 2,000 PhD students annually.
$120 million was provided in 2007 to CANARIE, the research broadband network linking various
university research centres.
In addition, the federal government has boosted its support for university core budgets through increases
to the Canada Social Transfer, and has supported predominantly university students through the Canada
Millennium Scholarship Fund introduced in 2000.
Funding for community colleges over that same time period pales in comparison. The point in raising this
imbalance is not to suggest that universities should be funded any less or that colleges deserve that
funding in preference to universities. The point in raising these various programs is to demonstrate that
there has been a lack of balance with regard to the federal government’s priorities in terms of higher
education. Canadian colleges have not received a proportionate amount of attention or funding from the
Canada’s community colleges are uniquely suited and positioned to provide the “hands-on” training that is
required to build the skilled work force Canada needs for its immediate and long term prosperity. As
community-based institutions they provide our best solution to dealing with the aging workforce; the re-
training of older, displaced workers; the integration of traditionally under-represented groups such as
Aboriginal Canadians; and the training and integration of immigrants. However, because of years of
funding neglect, they lack the infrastructure and capacity to meet these challenges. Much more
enhanced strategic investment in Canada’s community colleges is required. While education is a
provincial jurisdiction, the importance and urgency of this matter requires a national effort with the same
kind of effective and determined leadership that the Federal Government has displayed in such areas as
municipal infrastructure renewal.