OTTAWA – Canadian construction companies could be missing out on a huge pool of skilled labour because of an inconsistent, informal method of assessing foreign-trained worker credentials, says a new study published this fall by the Construction Sector Council (CSC).
A Study of Assessment and Recognition of Foreign-Trained Worker Credentials in the Construction Industry finds that foreign-trained workers are at a disadvantage because of language barriers, insufficient documentation, and lack of knowledge about Canadian health and safety regulations, building codes, and other workplace requirements.
“Many foreign-trained workers are falling through the cracks when it comes to skill assessment,” says CSC Executive Director George Gritziotis, “and that translates into a loss of qualified labour at a time when some regions and sectors of the industry need it more than ever.”
The research also concludes that “…the process is not systematic and difficult to navigate. Apprenticeship officers use judgement and experience to assess foreign-trained workers. No books of international equivalencies are available to them. A multitude of players is involved, policies are contradictory, and there appears to be no strong industry involvement.”
For example, Gritziotis notes that “the credentials of a tradesperson from South East Asia are assessed in the same way as the one who just came through the apprenticeship system here. The Asian man could be very skilled at his trade, but if his English is poor, or he doesn’t have the right documents, he will not likely get the job.”
“This study adds to the body of knowledge we need to address this increasingly important issue. With demographics, retirements and attrition, a good understanding of how these credentials are dealt with allows us to work toward making better use of a key labour source.”
The CSC commissioned the study to gain a better understanding of how foreign credentials are assessed and recognized in the construction industry, in related trades, and in other countries.
It includes 65 interviews with representatives from apprenticeship offices, government, owners, contractors, contractor associations, labour groups, credential recognition agencies, educational institutions, and immigrant-serving agencies.
The report recommends how to improve the process in a way that allows industry to make full use of the productive potential of the workforce, and Canadian immigrants to make full use of their skills and experience. It calls for integrating foreign-trained workers through a system that complements their skills, education, and experience, while meeting the needs of the Canadian economy.
“The responsibility for acting on the recommendations falls to the industry – employers and labour groups – in partnership with apprenticeship offices,” says Gritziotis, noting that the CSC is now in discussion with directors of apprenticeship and other key stakeholders, in an effort to address some of the barriers to foreign-trained worker integration.
As part of its labour market information program, the Construction Sector Council is conducting research on issues related to the supply of labour in the Canadian construction industry.
Funding for this project was provided by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program.
The CSC is a not–for–profit, independent labour/business partnership organization established in 2001, to address the current and future human resource needs of the construction industry in Canada.
For more information on these and other CSC programs:
Construction Sector Council
Tel: (613) 569-5552, ext. 230
Fax: (613) 569-1220