Tom Sigurdon is the executive director of BC Building Trades. (Joshua Berson Photo)

LETTER: B.C.’s future is built on the trades

Over the next three years, the province will invest $15.8 billion in taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

Dear Editor,

Wanted: Skilled tradespeople. Must enjoy great wages, rewarding work, and a bright future.

As employment ads go, does this sound too good to be true? It’s actually not.

April is Construction and Skilled Trades Month in B.C., which is a perfect time to raise awareness about the opportunities in the skilled trades.

In 2017, the B.C. construction industry had 8,395 job vacancies, representing a 20 per cent increase over the previous year, and 25 per cent of Canada’s overall construction industry job vacancies. In fact, trades jobs are expected to comprise 11 per cent of all job openings in B.C. in the next decade. That’s more than 100,000 jobs.

The skilled trades are well paid, in demand and portable, with significant opportunities for advancement.

And it gets even better because over the next three years, this province will invest $15.8 billion in taxpayer-funded infrastructure throughout B.C., supporting thousands of jobs during construction. These projects have the potential to set the bar high in terms of benefits to the communities they serve.

This isn’t a new concept. Community Benefits Agreements — formal agreements between governments and contractors — have been used with success throughout North America for more than two decades. Both union and non-union contractors can — and do — build public projects with community benefits. These agreements can ensure that workers are paid fairly, and that opportunities exist for qualified local workers, apprentices, women in trades and Indigenous workers.

Community Benefits Agreements can literally change the economic landscape for the better by gifting communities with a legacy of skills, training, employability and local investment.

So Construction and Skilled Trades Month isn’t just about the 200,000 workers employed in the construction sector. It’s about all of us who use and pay for the bridges, roads, dams, and structures that these workers have built.

Public infrastructure projects should provide community benefits that are wide and deep. It’s as simple and as necessary as that.

Tom Sigurdson, executive director, BC Building Trades

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