Major projects throughout province may spark need for more tradespeople
BY NOA GLOUBERMAN
Growth in various industries throughout British Columbia means skilled trades workers – and students thinking about their career options – may look forward to future employment.
With plans for everything from ships to ski resorts to power projects in the works, more and more tradespeople will be needed to build – and, in some cases, staff – all sorts of new ventures.
According to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation – which recently announced that a record-breaking number of skilled tradespersons qualified as journeypersons this year – 104,600 or so trades jobs should open in B.C. in the next decade.
This thanks to major projects like the federal shipbuilding contract won by Seaspan and the Northwest Transmission Line, which are creating trades jobs – now and in the coming years – that need to be filled by skilled men and women.
“There are great opportunities in our province for skilled workers, and now more than ever we need men and women to choose a career in the trades,” said Minister Pat Bell.
“Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time, re-entering it or changing careers, there is an opportunity in the trades for you. It’s an exciting career path, and it’s great to see that this year we’re seeing a record-breaking number of apprentices qualifying for their certification.”
Nearly 8,760 certificates of qualification were awarded by the Industry Training Authority (ITA) in 2011-12 – the highest number of certificates awarded since the ITA was established in 2004 – at a time when the provincial economy needs them the most.
A certificate of qualification, known on the job site as a “ticket,” is a credential issued to skilled tradespersons who meet industry-developed standards for theoretical knowledge and workplace proficiency within a trade, either by completing an apprenticeship or a challenge assessment.
With it, a tradesperson can command full market value as a journeyperson and act as a mentor for other apprentices.
“This milestone achievement provides evidence that B.C.’s industry training system is performing at the level required to meet B.C.’s skilled labour demands,” said ITA CEO Kevin Evans. “The record demand for an ITA credential demonstrates how highly valued it is by both employers and skilled tradespeople.”
Just what types of trades are expected to be in highest demand in the coming years? To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at industry activity – and major projects – throughout the province.
According to Statistics Canada, construction spending in the Lower Mainland posted its fourth annual gain last year – and is shaping up to be even stronger this year.
“The non-residential investment turnaround in 2011 is a positive sign,” said Keith Sashaw, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA). “We saw a large rise in November building permits, and we expect the fourth-quarter permits to come in higher than the third.”
This combined with improving market conditions in Vancouver commercial real estate and general economic growth in Metro Vancouver in 2011 offers a positive outlook for 2012.
Large construction projects that will be underway this year include:
• the Evergreen Line, a $1 billion-plus rapid-transit project;
• Metrotower III in Burnaby, a $170 million 29-storey office tower by developer Ivanhoé Cambridge and general contractor Ledcor;
• a mixed-use 820,000-square-foot mega-project at Marine Drive and Cambie Street by PCI Developments Corp.;
• a $280 million expansion and redevelopment project at Guildford Town Centre;
• a 1.8-million-square-foot retail complex in South Delta that will be the biggest shopping centre in B.C.; and
• institutional projects like the $3.3 billion Highway 1/Port Mann Bridge project; Fraser Health’s new Jim Pattison Outpatient and Surgery Centre; and the new RCMP E-division headquarters in Surrey.
In terms of residential development, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says housing starts continue to rise. In the first quarter of 2012, starts improved 22% from the same three-month period last year – 4,631 versus 3,808 – most in the multi-family sector.
“To me construction noise is the sweet sound of jobs for thousands of hard-working men and women,” wrote Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association president and CEO Peter Simpson in a recent Vancouver Sun column.
“The year-to-year starts differential generated an additional 2,304 full-time jobs for one year – or, as workplace economists like to call them, person-years of employment. Good news by any definition.”
Energy & Resources
If BC Hydro’s proposal to invest about $1.35 billion in Campbell River’s John Hart Generating Station goes through, it could create thousands of jobs over five years of construction.
The project will include replacing the existing three 1.8-kilometre-long penstocks with a 2.1-kilometre tunnel through bedrock, constructing a replacement generating station beside the existing station, constructing a replacement water intake at the John Hart Spillway Dam and building a new water bypass facility.
Hydro’s goal is to complete the regulatory processes and award the construction contract by summer 2013. It hopes to have the project complete by the end of 2018.
“John Hart has provided clean, reliable power for people on Vancouver Island for the past 65 years, and it’s now time to reinvest so that it continues to for generations to come,” said Rich Coleman, minister of energy and mines.
“The project will create about 400 jobs a year over the five years of construction, providing economic benefits to families and businesses in the area.”
Added Comox Valley MLA Don McRae: “A project of this magnitude will bring many benefits to the Comox Valley area with not just construction jobs but also many spin-off jobs as well. The economic impact of this project cannot be underestimated.”
Elsewhere in the province, Hydro’s 344-kilometre, 287-kilovolt Northwest Transmission Line from Skeena Substation, near Terrace, to Bob Quinn Lake, is expected to create up to an estimated 280 direct jobs per year of construction.
Designing, procuring and constructing the NTL has been awarded to the team of Vallard Construction and Burns & MacDonald. Right-of-way clearing began in January 2012 and structure construction is scheduled to begin in late spring/summer 2012. The transmission line is expected to come into service in spring 2014.
Beyond its own construction, the NTL is touted as the first step in reinvigorating the regional economy of B.C.’s northwest, providing significant direct economic stimulus to the region – and jobs for years to come.
“Northwest B.C. is poised to become a region of major job creation and growth, and … the province is committed to ensuring that northwest workers are ready to take advantage of these economic development opportunities,” said Bell.
Last October the federal government named Vancouver-based Seaspan Marine Corp. as the prime contractor to build the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy program’s non-combat vessels.
The $8 billion program will initially see Seaspan construct seven non-combat ships, including joint support ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, offshore science vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and a new polar icebreaker.
The federal government also has plans for a further 17 vessels, which should fall under the non-combat package. The contract is expected to inject billions of dollars into the local economy and create more than 4,000 jobs in the West Coast shipbuilding industry over the next eight to 30 years.
New, direct marine jobs will likely include mechanics, machinists, pipefitters, electricians, steel fabricators, engine fitters, sheet-metal workers, joiners, welders and other skilled tradespeople to construct the ships.
“Seaspan is committed to returning B.C.’s shipbuilding industry to its once-thriving roots,” said Seaspan CEO Jonathan Whitworth.
Though protesters were still planning to demonstrate their opposition as of press time, on March 20 the B.C. government granted Glacier Resorts Ltd. a permit to build a new ski destination in the Kootenays that’s projected to create 750 permanent jobs once the project breaks ground, likely mid-2013.
That means that, aside from the construction workers needed to build the mountain resort, many more employees specializing in tourism-related trades will be recruited to run it.
According to B.C.’s tourism industry human resources association go2, tourism is one of the province’s fastest-growing industries. Technical and trades jobs within the snowsport sector specifically include heavy-duty and lift mechanics, electricians and heavy-equipment operators.
“A lift mechanic, for instance, is usually a millwright who installs, maintains, repairs and troubleshoots lift equipment, assisting with the starting up and shutting down of the lifts each day,” according to go2.
Lift mechanics also perform various mechanical procedures that require specialized training. They work at great heights, in all weather conditions, at any time of day or night. Many ski areas offer apprenticeships in such trades, though it’s not yet clear whether Jumbo will be one of them.
Food and beverage is also an integral part of ski-area operations. Professional cooks are considered tradespeople, as are bakers. And, with many modern ski resorts offering spa services, hairstylists – also among the trades – may also be recruited by the mountain.