"Essential Skills for the Construction Sector"
Essential Skills for the Construction Sector Sector Profile According to the provincial government in its WorkFutures report 1 , the construction sector is "involved in a wide range of activities, from building houses, apartments, shopping centres, sports complexes and factories to the construction of water systems, roads, electrical towers and oil and gas pipelines." The construction sector builds homes, apartment towers, office buildings, shopping centres and industrial sites for private owners and roads, schools, hospitals, bridges, and office buildings for the public. Construction work is spread throughout the province in proportion to its population. As the WorkFutures report goes on to state, "…almost two-thirds of the province's construction work is located in the Lower Mainland, followed by Vancouver Island at 15% and the Thompson-Okanagan at 12%." The remaining regions in B.C. (the north, the Cariboo/Chilcotin, and the Kootenays) each employ 2% to 4% of the province's construction workers. In addition to these geographic divisions, the sector can be subdivided in the following ways: • Residential / Commercial / Industrial • Union / Non-Union • Trades / Professional / Management • Small / Medium / Large Firms With regard to the residential / commercial / industrial sub-sectors, all three areas are thriving, and are projected to continue to flourish. Residential housing starts in B.C. have increased from 26,174 in 2003 to 39,195 in 2007, a growth of nearly 50% in four years 2 . The Construction Sector Council (CSC) predicts that even if the number of yearly housing starts decreases slightly in the next few years, it will remain strong through 2015, at or around 2003 levels, which were at a six year high at the time 3 . Similarly, commercial and industrial construction has been on a steady increase since 1999 and is projected by the CSC to grow steadily over the next seven years. The CSC also projects that current industrial and commercial construction for the fast approaching 2010 Winter Olympics and various other projects (such as pipeline and liquefied natural gas terminal construction, port renewals/expansions, and the Vancouver International Airport expansion) will create a busy industrial/commercial construction market in upcoming years. The sector includes over 50 different trades. The construction sector is the largest employer of all of the goods-producing industries in British Columbia 4 , employing almost 10% of B.C.'s workforce. The sector has recently grown rapidly, increasing from nearly 125,000 construction 1 www.workfutures.bc.ca 2 Statistics Canada: www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/manuf05.htm 3 Construction Sector Council, ibid 4 WorkFutures BC 1 workers in 2001, to just over 221,000 in 2008 5 . Currently B.C. has Canada's highest percentage of construction sector employment. According to WorkFutures, "two-thirds of the people who work in the construction industry are trades people, contractors and others with construction-related skills. The remaining one-third includes management, finance, business and administration services, and scientific and technical occupations such as architects and civil engineers." Required Education & Training In order to gain the skills needed for certification as a tradesperson, a person must complete an Apprenticeship. Some people begin an apprenticeship through their employment, while others begin it through an in-school trades Foundation training program. In B.C. today, "apprenticeship is paid, work-based training, usually combined with [yearly short periods of] post-secondary education. Typically, about 80-85% of an apprenticeship is made up of work-based training and the other 15-20% is made up of technical training taken in a classroom and shop setting. The length of an apprenticeship can range from one to five years, but most require four years to complete. Successful completion of both components, along with examinations, is required before an apprentice earns a certificate or ticket, and becomes a certified tradesperson in his or her trade." 6 To become an apprentice in B.C., a person must sign an apprenticeship contract with his or her employer and with the Industry training Authority (ITA), which oversees all apprenticeship training in the province. People who wish to gain some skills in a trade before asking an employer for an apprenticeship contract often take a Foundation Program (previously known as Entry Level Trades Training, or ELTT) in that trade at a college or other training institute, as an initial path towards a trade or industry occupation. Foundation programs generally involve six to eight months of full-time in-school training, with an appropriate balance of classroom and hands-on shop work. Foundation programs offer a linkage to one or more apprenticeship programs and may precede enrolment in a full apprenticeship. They may also provide credit towards apprenticeship training, as Foundation program graduates are usually given credit for the first year of apprenticeship technical training. In 2007/08, the ITA reported 7 that there were 38,165 registered apprentices and Foundation program students in B.C. Of these, 27,859 – 73% – were in a construction trade. Secondary school students can begin an apprenticeship with an employer through the Secondary School Apprenticeship (SSA) program, or without an employer through the Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training (ACE-IT) program. In 5 Statistics Canada: www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/labr67k.htm 6 ITA: www.itabc.ca/Apprentices-apprenticeship.php 7 ITA Performance Measurement Report, Jan. 31, 2008, at www.itabc.ca/documents/ITA%20Performance%20Measurement%20Report.pdf 2 2007/08, the ITA reported that 2,974 students were registered in an ACE-IT program. Of these, 1,496 – 50% – were in a construction trade 8 . (We did not review these high school programs nor survey their instructors; nevertheless, many of our recommendations are relevant to those programs and instructors.) For many trades, upon completion of an apprenticeship, an Inter-Provincial Exam is available. These trades, known as the Red Seal trades, have nationally recognized certification standards. The credentials of a certified tradesperson who has successfully earned a Red Seal ticket are recognized across the country; that journeyperson can work in the trade anywhere in Canada. Skill Gaps & Training Needs The construction sector is facing a serious labour shortage. The CSC notes the following contributing factors 9 : • Construction activity grew by 50% from 2001 to 2006. As such, maintaining an employee to job ratio equivalent to 2001 levels B.C. would have required a 9% gain in employment per year, but there was an increase of only 2%. • The ‘baby boomer’ age group currently fills a large percentage of construction sector jobs. The CSC predicts a steady increase in their retirement levels over the next seven years. • Increases in construction activity are occurring all across Canada, and those increased levels create increased work opportunities in other provinces. B.C. will continue to have to compete with other provinces across Canada for skilled construction sector workers. The issue is that of skill shortages, not merely that of a shortage of employees. To succeed in the workplace, many applicants need a higher level of Essential Skills. The skills shortage issue is not unique to B.C., or even to North America. A recent German report 10 10 states that "against the background of the demographic situation as well as structural and economic change, an increasing demand for skilled labour is the emerging trend", requiring people to have an "ability to engage in lifelong learning". It then diplomatically notes that "some school leavers do not have the required training maturity". Globally, Manpower, Inc.'s 2007 Talent Shortage Survey 11 of 37,000 employers in 27 countries found that 41% of employers were having difficulty filling positions due to a lack of suitable talent; second from the top in terms of difficulty worldwide were the Skilled Manual Trades (which include the construction trades). In its breakdown of these results by country, this study found that Canada's employers ranked Skilled Manual Trades at the top, as the most difficult to fill. 8 ITA Performance Measurement Report, Jan. 31, 2008 9 Construction Sector Council, ibid 10 "Ten Guidelines for the Modernization and Structural Improvement of Vocational Education and Training", Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Berlin, 2007, pages 12 and 14. 11 "Talent Shortage Survey – 2007 Global Results", Manpower, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 3 To try to meet this demand, organizations such as the ITA and the CSC are enticing and recruiting record levels of new apprentices into the construction sector. However, the number of apprentices who complete their training is much less than satisfactory. Completion rates in BC in recent years have been approximately 40%. 12 This is much lower than, for example, the rate in Australia, where the completion rate is approximately 60%. 13 It is much lower than most B.C. university degree-completion rates, which tend (over similar time spans) to also be around 60% 14 . However, a low completion rate seems to be typical for Canadian apprenticeships: a recent StatsCan study of apprenticeship completions in New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta shows that only 30% of building construction apprentices in New Brunswick who began their apprenticeship in 1993 had completed their apprenticeship by 2003; the percentage for Ontario was 29%, and for Alberta, 42%. 15 There are many possible causes for this low apprenticeship completion rate, including: • There may not be enough work in the trade near the apprentice's home, and so he or she may change careers. • The apprentice may decide to change careers for any number of other reasons. • The apprentices may stay in the trade but move to another province. • The increase in pay due when apprenticeship training is completed may not be enough to motivate the apprentice to take time off work for the in-school training. • The apprentice's employer may not allow him or her to take the time needed for in-school training Governments and educational institutions have little control over these factors. A major factor over which they may have control, however, is the level of Essential Skills possessed by the apprentice. 16 16 This factor is significantly affected by the education and training offered in the construction sector 12 ITA: itabc.ca/documents/ITA%20Performance%20Measurement%20Report.pdf 13 Ball, Katrina, Factors Influencing Completion of Apprenticeships and Traineeships, page 3. National Centre For Vocational Education Research, Adelaide, Australia, 2004, at www.ncver.edu.au/pubs/confs/kball_almrw2004.pdf 14 Conway, Chris, The 2000 B.C. University Early Leavers Survey Report, page 9. The University Presidents' Council of B.C., 2001, at www.tupc.bc.ca/student_outcomes/publications/early_leavers/uel_report2000.pdf 15 Denis Morissette, Registered Apprentices: The Cohort of 1993, a Decade Later, Comparisons with the 1992 Cohort, Statistics Canada, April 2008, at www.statcan.ca/english/research/81-595-MIE/81- 595-MIE2008063.pdf 16 for instance, Lynda Fownes and Julian Evetts, Essential Skills and Success in Apprenticeship, SkillPlan, 2001; Accessing and Completing Apprenticeship Training in Canada: Perceptions of Barriers, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, 2004, and The Link Between Essential Skills and Success in Apprenticeship Training, Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, 2007 4 According to Statistics Canada's 2003 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS 17 ) 48.6% of adult Canadians have weak or poor Document Use skills, and 55.1% have weak or poor Numeracy skills. For those working in the Utilities and Construction industries (which were lumped by the IALS into one category), the average IALS Document Use and Numeracy scores are both right on the dividing line between adequate and inadequate levels. 18 In other words, employees in the Utilities and Construction industries reflect the Canadian average: roughly half of them would be above the IALS literacy cut-off levels on these two skills, and half would be below. Existing Workplace Curricula & Resources ACT / WorkKeys – www.act.org ACT is an Iowa-based, not-for-profit organization that has expanded worldwide and offers a series of educational and work-based assessments and learning resources. One such resource is the WorkKeys series of assessments. WorkKeys assessments are meant to gauge the Foundation Skills that ACT has deemed vital to success in both life and the workplace, and which are similar to HRSDC’s Essential Skills. One interesting note is that WorkKeys has developed an assessment for Teamwork Skills, which is the same as HRSDC’s Working With Others Essential Skill, and which is often thought of as tough to measure. Also, the assessments need not necessarily be used as assessments, but can be used as a resource to develop Essential Skills related learning material. WorkKeys assessments and information (www.act.org/workkeys) Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training - www.tradesecrets.gov.ab.ca This is the Alberta trades board website. It details the trades in depth and includes prerequisites, apprenticeship info, entrance process, and just about everything trade- related in Alberta. The websites listed below provide information on the entrance exam that prospective apprentices must take and pass if they are unable to meet the general educational prerequisites required by specific trades in Alberta. Entrance Level Competencies for Alberta Apprenticeship Programs: (http://www.tradesecrets.gov.ab.ca/pdf/entrance_competencies.pdf) Trade Entrance Exam Study Guide: (http://www.tradesecrets.gov.ab.ca/pdf/077_Entrance_Study_Guide.pdf) 17 "International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey: Building on our competencies" from Statistics Canada's Daily, November 30, 2005, found at www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/051130/d051130b.htm 18 For Problem-Solving, workers in these areas scored, on average, 6.4% below the IALS literacy cut- off level. 5 Entrance Exam Support Materials List: (http://www.tradesecrets.gov.ab.ca/trades/pdf/trade_textbooks/ent_textbook s.pdf) The Apprenticeship Network - http://www.theapprenticeshipnetwork.com The Apprenticeship Network features apprenticeship info aimed at number of communities in Ontario, but features free online Ontario EARAT Skills Manuals. The Evaluating Academic Readiness for Apprenticeship Training (EARAT) Assessment was developed by the Workplace Support Services Branch, Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and is a diagnostic tool used to assess prospective apprentices who may not have satisfied the educational prerequisites for apprenticeship training. Many of the categories of the EARAT exams relate to HRSDC’s Essential Skills and they are available for a wide range of trades. AWES – Alberta Workplace Essential Skills – www.nald.ca/AWES The AWES society is a non-profit organization that promotes the Essential Skills in Alberta through support of Essential Skills training projects. At the web address below they have made available a manual that can be used to assist educators in integrating workplace Essential Skills with conventional classroom instruction. Integrating Workplace Essential Skills into Curricula: A Process Model (http://www.nald.ca/library/research/awes/iwesc/iwesc.pdf) Building Academic Skills…Enhanced Math Learning in CTE. This recent report deals with a study performed in American classrooms to determine student learning styles and methods to better teach vocational mathematics. It provides another potential model for improving teaching and assessment in trades math courses Stone, J. et al. Building Academic Skills in Context: Testing the Value of Enhanced Math Learning in CTE. National Research Centre for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota. 2006. (www.aypf.org/forumbriefs/2007/Resources/MathLearningFinalStudy.pdf) Canadian Apprenticeship Forum – www.caf-fca.org The CAF is a non-profit organization that describes its mission as, “Influencing pan- Canadian apprenticeship strategies through research, discussion and collaboration [and] To promote apprenticeship as an effective model for training and education, contributing to the development of a skilled, high quality, productive, inclusive and mobile labour force.” Accessing and Completing Apprenticeship Training: Perceived Barriers is a CAF report that takes an in depth review of the many reasons why Canadians may not participate in an apprenticeship and why registered apprentices may not complete their apprenticeships. www.caf-fca.org/files/access/1-Report_jan04_e.pdf The Link Between Essential Skills and Success in Apprenticeship Training is a CAF report that comprehensively reviews just what the title states, the link between Essential Skills and apprenticeship training. It summarizes 47 Essential Skills and apprenticeship initiatives in Canada and thoroughly examines 7 in the appendices, 6 including work done by SkillPlan and the positively reviewed Nova Scotia informal apprentice assessment process. www.caf- fca.org/files/access/Essential_Skills_Report_E.pdf The Conference Board of Canada – http://www.conferenceboard.ca Source of The Employability Toolkit, a series of tools for sale that assist learners in using and developing the skills needed in life and work. Construction Sector Council – www.csc-ca.org The Construction Sector Council profiles the Canadian construction sector and the different trades involved in it. It describes the apprenticeship process for the different trades and provides publications that review construction sectors specific to each province. The CSC is also an excellent source of trades related Essential Skills learning material and other resources. Publications: • Measuring Skills in Construction • Essential Skills Self Assessment: Construction Workers Workbook • Essential Skill Activities for Trades • Plane Language for Construction • Using Trades Math • Log on to Learn: Computer-based training for construction managers • Essential Skills Strategy for the Construction Industry • Construction Looking Forward: Labour Requirements from 2007 to 2015 for British Columbia (www.cscca.org/pdf/ConstructionLF-BC-07.pdf) • HRSDC – www.hrsdc.gc.ca/essentialskills The primary source of Essential Skills information on the web. HRSDC provides information, stats, definitions and everything Essential Skills related. • Essential Skills Portfolio (www23.hrdcdrhc.gc.ca/2001/e/generic/welcome.shtml) • List of Essential Skills Resources: www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/hip/lld/nls/Resources/11_skillsbiblio.shtml • HRSDC Trades Sector Skill Profiles: srv108.services.gc.ca/english/general/all_profiles.aspx Industry Training Authority – www.itabc.ca B.C.’s trades board offers up to date stats and information related to apprenticeships and certification in B.C. It profiles different methods of starting apprenticeships in and provides lists of training institutes in B.C. • Apprentice / Trainee Guide • (http://itabc.ca/documents/Apprentice%20Guide.pdf) 7 SkillPlan –- www.skillplan.ca/English/about.htm SkillPlan provides plenty of resources and information on the Essential Skills and their relevance to B.C. construction trades. They are committed to promoting a proper understanding of the Essential Skills and have developed an excellent set of Essential Skills learning material that is directly applicable to the different B.C. construction trades. Publications include: • Document Use at Work • The Language of Documents: A Guide to Information Display in the Workplace • Essential Skills and Success in Apprenticeship • Formulas at Work: Tradesworkers on the Job • From the Ground Up: Tradesworkers on the Job • Measurement and Calculation for the Trades • Numeracy at Work Numeracy Rules • Reading at Work: Workplace Reader Science for the Trades • Tools for the Trade Writing at Work TOWES – www.towes.com TOWES (Test of Workplace Essential Skills) provides very positively reviewed workplace Essential Skills assessments including: Measure Up – Essential Skills Self Evaluation Tool, and the TOWES G series tests for specific occupations including construction trades. Recommendations Recommendations to the Ministry of Advanced Education & Labour Market Development and its Industry Training Authority We recommend that: 1. The Industry Training Authority (ITA) and the College and Institute Student Outcomes Project (CISO) survey apprentices who have not completed their apprenticeship within six years to determine the causes of their non- completion. (p22 19 ) 2. The ITA amend its Apprenticeship Program Profiles to explicitly include the Essential Skills, as it has done for the Foundation Program Profiles. (p18) 3. The ITA support the development of Essential Skill training materials for inclusion in Foundation and Apprenticeship programs, and include any training 19 References are to pages in the full report 8 time 20 these materials will require in its future program planning and budgeting process. (p18) 4. The Ministry of Advanced Education survey trades instructors once again, to ask specifically which Essential Skills tasks are needed for success in the program but are not taught in the program, which are necessary for success and are taught or reviewed in the program, and which are not needed for success in the program. (p27) 5. The ITA work with the various Trades articulation committees to examine the entry requirements and assessment processes now in use in B.C. and across Canada, and develop and implement a standard assessment test for each trade across all training institutions in B.C. (p25) 6. The ITA require all those who wish to enter Foundation programs and all those who become registered apprentices to be assessed to determine the level of their Essential Skills. (p25) 7. All B.C. regional post-secondary institutions, and other training providers and agencies as appropriate, offer these assessments, and that all assessment results be reported to the ITA. (p25) 8. The ITA require those who need to upgrade their Essential Skills prior to Foundation or first-year Apprenticeship training to do so before being allowed to begin that training. (p25) 9. The ITA, the Ministry of Advanced Education and the public post-secondary institutions work together to ensure that opportunities for Essential Skills upgrading are easily available for those who need them. (p25) 10. The Ministry of Advanced Education fund the development and promotion of a set of on-line Essential Skills self-assessment and upgrading courses to give prospective apprentices easy access to upgrading they may need. (p25) 11. The ITA provide employers with an Essential Skills assessment tool to help them with hiring decisions and to help determine employee training needs. (p26) 12. The ITA add mentorship training and training in Essential Skills instruction to the final year of apprentice training, and work with training institutions to offer workshops in mentoring apprentices to all journeypersons who supervise apprentices. The Essential Skills of Oral Communication and Working with Others should be particularly emphasized for this purpose. (p29) 13. The ITA review the exams used throughout each trade's training, and revise and improve them to better match the way in which the skills are actually used in the trades. (p31) 20 We believe the additional training time needed will be minimal or zero, if the recommendations regarding assessment and upgrading prior to entering training are adopted. See page 19 for more on this. 9 14. The Ministry of Advanced Education carry out a survey of instructors in basic education and related programs to determine the extent to which they assist trades students and apprentices to improve their basic Essential Skills, and to determine the extent to which these instructors are familiar with the Essential Skill requirements of the trades and the ways in which these Skills are applied in various trades. (p31) 15. The Ministry of Advanced Education sponsor a province-wide process by which pairs of basic education instructors and trades instructors can be supported in learning more about the Essential Skills needed by trades students and how those Skills may be taught, and, through a conference and other means, to share their learning with instructors around the province. High school trades and academic teachers should also be invited to participate in this pairing and sharing process. (p32) 16. The Ministry of Advanced Education sponsor a series of conferences, workshops and on-line sources for instructors, through which the many currently available Essential Skills resources can be discussed, evaluated and shared by trades and basic education instructors. (p27) 17. Through these workshops and conferences, trades instructors be given opportunities to learn how to more explicitly recognize the Essential Skills of Oral Communication, Thinking and Working with Others in their current technical training activities, and to learn how to more clearly integrate work on these Essential Skills into those training activities. (p28) 18. Through these workshops and conferences, trades instructors also be given opportunities to learn how to more clearly integrate the Document Use, Numeracy, and Reading Text Skills into their current technical training activities. (p31) 19. The various excellent resources developed by SkillPlan and others be publicized to instructors through these workshops and by other means (p32) 20. The B.C. Council on Admissions and Transfer set up a provincial Essential Skills Articulation Committee, with representatives from all post-secondary institutions and from programs of all types, to oversee and guide the embedding of Essential Skills in all post-secondary programs. (p32) 21. The Ministry of Advanced Education work with the Ministry of Education in a broad effort be undertaken to acquaint K-12 teachers, counsellors and advisors (and also post-secondary counsellors and advisors) with the level of the Essential Skills needed for a successful trades career. (p22) 22. The Ministry of Advanced Education review course, program and career descriptions to ensure that the required level of Essential Skills is consistently mentioned (p22) 23. The Ministry of Education develop provincial standards for the K-12 system's technical/trades courses. (p22) 10 Recommendations to Trades Training Institutions We recommend that: 24. At each public post-secondary institution, Trades program managers meet with Learning Centre managers to implement ways by which Learning Centre assistance can be made available, at appropriate times, to trades students / apprentices. (p31) 25. At each public post-secondary institution, Trades program managers meet with basic education program managers to implement ways by which basic education assistance and Essential Skill upgrading can be made available, at appropriate times, to trades students / apprentices both before and during their in-school training. (p32) Recommendations to Other Government Ministries We recommend that: 26. The Ministry of Economic Development create a system of incentives – tax breaks, perhaps – to encourage employers to support their apprentices in completing their training. (p22) Research Methodology The core of the project was a survey of instructors in the construction trades in B.C. The survey list was developed from various sources: contact lists on the websites of the various trades training institutions, correspondence with program managers, lists supplied by the Industry Training Authority and others, etc. In total the list comprised 374 individuals, 34 from private training organizations and 340 from public post- secondary institutions. There were 115 final respondents, representing 30.7% of the total population of the mailing list. Another 29.7% began but unfortunately did not complete the survey; we were not able to collect partial results. In addition to the survey, the following were completed: trades training program and course descriptions at each public trades training institution in B.C. were reviewed to determine what Essential Skills were explicitly included in the training program curricula; a small sample of current and former apprentices, journeypersons and employers, and staff was interviewed; entrance requirements and assessments offered for all public and private technical training institutions in British Columbia were reviewed; numerous studies and resources were reviewed to determine the state of construction sector training in B.C. (and in a selection of other provinces and countries) and to identify existing methods and models for improving Essential Skills assessment and education; numerous sector and training related reports were reviewed. This report was prepared by Kwantlen University College working with SkillPlan (the B.C. Construction Industry Skills Improvement Council) and the Vancouver Regional Construction Association. For more information and to read the full report, please contact Geoff Dean at Geoff.Dean@kwantlen.ca. 11