Building the Future of B.C.’s Construction Industry

Open shop contractors sponsor well more than 80% of all apprentices in the province

SURREY – The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) – for years the  sponsor of the most trades apprentices in British Columbia – is now the single biggest sponsor of Indigenous apprentices in the province, new statistics from SkilledTradesBC show.

The surge to number one among Indigenous apprentices highlights the leadership ICBA has shown in partnering with Indigenous-led companies, associations, and progressive unions over the past few years.

“ICBA has worked hard to be a partner for Indigenous construction leaders and companies,” said ICBA President Chris Gardner. “We are honoured that so many Indigenous workers trust us to sponsor their apprenticeships, and to help them enhance their skills and build their careers.”

Over the past two years, ICBA has partnered with Indigenous organizations to offer group benefits and retirement plans to their workers; offered skills training and professional development; and worked with ICBA members to enhance their understanding of Indigenous custom and culture through workshops and other training initiatives. ICBA has also adopted an Indigenous logo designed by award-winning Diitiidaht/Kyuquot/Coast Salish artist Carmen Thompson.

In all categories in B.C., ICBA’s total of 1,584 trades apprentices nearly doubles the second largest sponsor’s 890, and more than triples third place’s 508. And those are just the apprentices sponsored directly by ICBA – open shop contractors sponsor more than eighty percent (80%) of all apprentices in the province.

Costly and overly bureaucratic provincial government programs like Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) – which the NDP Government claims helps Indigenous workers, actually cuts them out of taxpayer-funded projects and limits work on CBA projects to just 15 per cent of BC’s construction workforce.

While ICBA’s apprenticeship numbers continue to grow, government impediments to getting more people into the construction trades – such as CBAs and long wait lists for apprenticeship courses – help explain the 15% decline in registered apprentices that was highlighted in a recent report by CIBC.

The CIBC report also underscored the acute shortage of skilled workers facing the construction sector, pointing out that there are 80,000 job vacancies in construction across Canada. “There is an historic labour shortage facing construction, which is also being squeezed by an aging workforce,” said Gardner.

The CIBC report notes that the average age of retirement in construction is 60 and this combined with the fact that 20% of construction workers are aged 55 or older. “Construction is literally heading over a demographic cliff, so contractors are focused on being more innovative, adopting new design and building technologies and training and upskilling their workers,” said Gardner.

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The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), the largest construction association in Canada with chapters in B.C. and Alberta, represents more than 4,000 members and clients. ICBA is also one of the leading independent providers of group health and retirement benefits in western Canada, supporting more than 150,000 Canadians.