Skill trades busy but poorly managed, says industry professional

SAIT’S NEW CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROGRAM TO DEAL WITH DEMAND

thumb constructdanieroosIt’s become increasingly difficult to drive the streets and avenues of Calgary without running into a bright orange barricade indicating a detour or closed lane.

Likewise, renovation dumpsters on the front lawns and sidewalks of residential areas have become just as popular as the pylons that seem to be a permanent part of the Calgary landscape.

Residential and private construction jobs have been keeping smaller mom-and-pop companies busy.

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Danie Roos, owner of Tile Worx, said most of the jobs he gets are “fix-ups” to repair previously botched work by other contractors.
Photo by: Jodi Egan

Danie Roos owns one of these small construction businesses. His company, Tile Worx, is just as busy now as it was when he started his business in 2003.

Roos and his wife, Sharon Berry, both said they decided to work for themselves after many experiences with apathetic and inexperienced contractors.

“Contractors schedule your stuff so tight and if one thing goes wrong, everything boomerangs,” said Berry. “There are contractors out there making lots of money, but they have 20 workers who don’t care what they do. There’s no passion for the job.”

Since 2003, Roos and Berry have noticed an alarming trend in their business.

Roos said forty per cent of the jobs offered to him are “fix-ups” — a job that has been botched so the client seeks out a better worker or company to repair the damage.

“A friend of mine, who does commercial stuff, tells me straight off the top, ‘I’ve got one good tiler and 35 bad tilers.’ He just needs people,” Roos said.

Faisal Arain, academic chair of the Southern Alberta of Institute of Technology’s newest bachelor’s degree in construction project management, said he has been hearing a cry for help from industry professionals since 2007. He said he has received a total of 35 letters of support from 25 major construction companies for SAIT‘s newest program.

“Every letter we received stated that there was a dire need for construction professionals. There was a long wish list of qualifications,” Arain said.

With 900 construction projects in Alberta that are either ongoing or will be starting in two years’ time, Arain said SAIT’s new program is meant to bridge the gap between experienced workers and educated professionals in the trade business.

“These 900 projects are valued at $182 billion and the industry needs management professionals to handle that,” Arain said.

Roos said he’s very supportive of SAIT’s new program and even considered taking it himself.

“Anyone who graduates from this management course will make good money,” he said. “Guaranteed.”

Arain said the program will condense a decade of experience into just four years.

However, Roos says education will only get a labourer so far. Real-life experience is the difference between a job that runs smoothly and a job that’s substandard.

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Danie Roos, a tiler, said he is supportive of SAIT’s new bachelor’s degree in construction project management.
Photo by: Jodi Egan

Currently, the Canadian government is offering apprenticeship grants for those applying for education in Red Seal trades — trades that are transferable cross-province without additional exams or certifications.

Though these grants are encouraging people to join the trades, Roos said the government isn’t doing enough to help those in the trades who are currently struggling because of inflation and a lack of labour.

“The government needs to look at giving us one-manned construction companies a tax break or something because there’s a lot of us and we’re struggling.”

Roos is one of many small construction companies that are unable to hire more tradesmen because of government regulations.

Policy dictates employers must contribute to unemployment insurance and the workers’ compensation board on behalf of their labourers. For a man like Roos, this is an excessive amount of money that his small business can’t afford.

SAIT’s new degree program will produce around 33 potential graduates in four years. Though Arain said this program is necessary to alleviate the issues afflicting the trade, it will only be the first step in addressing the problem. The Government of Canada’s Construction Sector Council expects Canada will need 19,500 construction managers by 2019 to meet industry demand.

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