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June 10, 2024 in Trades & Hiring
By Canadian Contractor, in partnership with RBC Small Business

Mentorship and training play a pivotal role in attracting and retaining skilled tradespeople.

Addressing the shortage of skilled labour in Canada has never been more important, especially when it comes to the construction industry.

In addition to meeting current housing targets, the residential construction sector will need to expand its labour force by 83 per cent above the 2023 levels, to approximately 1.04 million workers, to close the housing supply gap of 3.5 million additional housing units this decade, according to BuildForce Canada’s Residential Scenario Outlook 2024-2033. To keep up with the necessary infrastructure for those new builds, the non-residential sector would also need to increase its labour force by 19 per cent over 2023 levels. These new workers are needed at a time where a record number of skilled workers are retiring from the construction sector.

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo.

While this is daunting for a sector already grappling with labour shortage issues, it also presents opportunities for businesses to invest in efficiently recruiting and retaining skilled labour.

Building bright futures for Indigenous youth through skilled trades

Rod Stagg knows all about how a career in the skilled trades can contribute to building a successful career for young Indigenous people. Stagg is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, with over 40 years of experience in the mechanical services industry.

As the owner of his own mechanical contracting firm in Calgary, Stagg is passionate about helping Canada’s Indigenous youth find worthwhile careers that will bring them financial stability and generational wealth – so much so that he founded Indigenous Incubator Inc.

The Indigenous Incubator was designed to help Indigenous entrepreneurs and youth learn important business skills and trades they can leverage to achieve economic success. While the company was founded in 2022, the idea behind it came many years before it officially launched.

The Indigenous Incubator idea stemmed from Stagg’s own professional experiences when he had the opportunity to work for (and eventually purchase) a plumbing contracting firm owned by a family friend in need of a successor. Stagg, who was already a journeyman plumber at the time, apprenticed for the owner to receive additional training, and eventually purchased the company.

“[The owner] didn’t have an exit strategy,” Stagg explains. “I was just fortunate enough to be there, and he took me under his wing and allowed me to learn from him, and be mentored by him in business, and in the trades.”

This situation is not unlike that of many other skilled tradespeople in Canada looking to retire or sell their small businesses. Stagg realized the aging demographic of tradespeople presented an opportunity for young Indigenous people looking for a fulfilling career in the skilled trades, while addressing the ongoing labour shortage in the industry.

Stagg’s company offers those looking to retire an opportunity to sell their small businesses to the Indigenous Incubator and take on a mentorship-like role, where they can pass down their knowledge and expertise to the next generation of Indigenous workers. Those young workers obtain apprenticeships through the Indigenous Incubator’s various businesses, and eventually move on to become journeymen, where they can continue to work for these businesses or start their own ventures.

Stagg explains that this kind of knowledge transfer is vital for ensuring the continuity and success of Indigenous businesses.

“The Métis Nation of Alberta has signed a declaration of relationship with the Incubator and they’ve committed $120,000 in wage subsidies for hiring Métis youth this year,” Stagg said.

RBC has also helped support the Indigenous Incubator, recognizing the many opportunities for Indigenous youth in the skilled trades.

“RBC has done everything they can to support us – everything from increasing our lines of credit to offering their RBC Group Advantage services,” Stagg says, referring to an RBC program that provides employers access to advice and resources that help them prioritize the emotional, physical and financial wellbeing of their employees and ultimately create a more productive workforce.

“Pathways to meaningful employment and economic independence requires investment in skill development.  Across Canada, skilled trades contribute to the well-being of communities and local economic growth,” says Chinyere Eni, Head, Indigenous Banking at RBC. “First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth are the fastest growing population in Canada, so fostering awareness of skill development opportunities to help inform thoughtful choices around career helps pave the way for a more inclusive economy.

How to attract and retain staff in the skilled trades

Retaining skilled labour is an ongoing challenge for business owners, Stagg notes, and Karen Svendsen, Senior Director of Client and Business Strategy, Small Business at RBC, agrees: the need for strong recruitment and retention strategies has come to light more than ever before, she says. 

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo.

“The shortage of skilled tradespeople in Canada is not a new story, but the stakes are increasing due to an aging workforce and increasing demand for digital skills,” she says. “Now more than ever, small businesses must prioritize recruiting and retaining skilled labour by investing in training, development and mentoring programs that equip the next generation with both traditional craftsmanship and digital fluency – skills that are critical to ensure the continued growth of our industries and communities.”

To assist in recruiting and retaining workers in the skilled trades, Eni and Svendsen point small business owners who bank with RBC to holistic resources and solutions that can provide valuable guidance and support, helping them find (and keep) the right talent for their business.

For example, the RBC Youth Employment Portal allows job seekers across Canada to create a free Magnet account and get matched to jobs, work placements, and internships with Canadian small and medium-sized businesses, including those available through RBC’s extensive business client network. Magnet also has a new program called Construction Career Pathways (created by BuildForce Canada) that matches job seekers with small and medium-sized employers in the construction industry. This program can enable business owners within the skilled trades to fill job vacancies, while taking advantage of financial incentives to help offset onboarding costs.

RBC has also teamed up with Indeed and ADP to offer unique advantages to business owners. For example, business clients can access $300 worth of sponsored job credits to create paid job listings on the Indeed employer platform to attract skilled tradespeople and fill vacant positions faster. Once those jobs have been filled, business owners can use ADP’s comprehensive payroll and HR services to help reduce administrative obstacles and spend more time on nurturing and training new employees.

Moreover, when public and private sectors come together to position the skilled trades as a lucrative career path and create programs of opportunity for Canada’s youth and other untapped labour pools, the construction industry and skilled trades work force that supports it will thrive. RBC supports programs like Jill of All Trades, an organization helping introduce young women in grades 9-12 to the benefits of trade careers. Between 2022 and 2026, more than 120 Jill of All Trade events will take place across Canada and the US, reaching more than 25,000 young women.

By leveraging these tools and solutions, business owners can build a more robust and capable workforce, ultimately leading to greater productivity and success in the skilled trades for years to come.

Visit RBC’s Starting a Small Business Hub to access more resources and support.


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