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Construction firms need to adjust to changing attitudes to attract millennials: Ontario’s labour minister

About 13,000 jobs were unfilled across Ontario's construction sector in first half of 2019: Province


Photo: Getty Images

Employers in the construction sector need to find new ways to talk to millennials if they are going to solve a looming skilled trades shortage, according to Ontario’s minister of labour.

“Young people have different attitudes towards life and work than the generations before them,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, in an address to construction leaders at a CEO breakfast co-hosted by ConstructConnect and the Toronto Construction Association. “The construction sector, along with others, needs to adjust to those changing attitudes to attract and retain talent.”

Among the key findings of new research conducted by the ministry  is the insight that young people prioritize independence and want to feel confident they have some control over their lives.

McNaughton said construction health and safety programs offer employers an opportunity to address those values.

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“Through health and safety, employers have an opportunity to show young workers they care,” said  McNaughton. “If we empower young people to be able to speak up on issues of safety, if we provide them with the right mentorship and we give them all the tools, including new technology, this will go a long way towards meeting their needs.”

Approximately one in two (55 per cent) young workers in the construction feel safe at their current workplace, new data shows. Roughly the same proportion of young workers (54 per cent) believe safety is more important than speed or profit.

“We need to prioritize a culture of safety over a finish-at-any-cost mentality,” said  McNaughton. “This will benefit workers and ultimately prove good for business.”

An aging workforce is driving the shortage of skilled workers. Over the next decade, the Canadian construction industry will need about 300,000 skilled construction workers.

“The shortage of skilled workers is a looming problem,” said Minister McNaughton. “The solution is clear. We need to end the stigma around the skilled trades, make the apprenticeship system easier to navigate, and find better ways to convince businesses to participate. That is my mission.”

The steps are part of the government’s commitment to help Ontario residents get career-ready and to enable employers to find the skilled labour they need.