September 24, 2012
Program connects B.C. construction firms with skilled foreign workers
The B.C. Construction Association (BCCA) is kick starting a unique program, which sources skilled construction workers overseas and helps employers navigate the immigration process.
“We have a range of programs in place to put British Columbians into construction jobs and can help anybody who is looking for work,” said Abigail Fulton, vice-president of the BCCA.
“We have about 50 people in the field placing workers and trying every angle to fill construction jobs. We only go overseas when we can’t fill a position locally.”
The Foreign Skilled Workers B.C. program (FSWBC) was created in March to recruit foreign journeypersons with unique skills, in response to the growing need for skilled and experienced tradespeople. Currently, the BCCA has more than 1,000 curriculum vitae (CVs) from skilled Irish tradespeople, who want to work in BC.
They also have CVs from tradespeople around the world, who found out about the program through the internet or word-of-mouth.
A CV provides an overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications.
It is similar to a resume, but is more detailed.
“We have a trade expert who vets all of the skill sets in the CVs and talks to all the employers about their skills needs, before making a referral,” said Fulton.
“The trade tickets in Ireland don’t line up perfectly with Canada because the skill sets are often called by different names. There is a need to screen or break all this down, in order to understand what the skill sets are and match them up.”
For example, there is no such thing as a millwright in Ireland.
So, it is necessary to identify what trades do the work of a millwright.
“We started to ramp up this program after coming back from Ireland and we have been in the start-up phase for a few months,” said Fulton.
“We are getting busier day by day.”
The new initiative was developed after the BCCA led a small group of construction industry leaders from western Canada on a trip to Ireland in March to investigate construction trades training and compare trade qualifications.
Fulton estimates that the FSWBC program has already filled about 25 jobs and there are about 100 job offers currently being negotiated.
The BCCA is offering a unique service to member companies, which helps them through the process of foreign worker recruitment by mitigating the risk for both employers and workers.
“They (job candidates) can actually call and talk to us,” said Fulton.
“This is really a valuable tool when people are looking at a job offer from a company they know nothing about. We are also developing packages with information on topics like housing or banking for people who are new to B.C.”
The FSWBC is also designed to assist employers with the immigration process, including the Provincial Nominee Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
BCCA members and other employers, who want to participate in the program, are required to pay a fee for service for each skilled journeyperson placed with their organization through the program.
No fee is charged to the incoming worker.
“We actually ran a program like this a few years ago,” said Fulton.
“This program was the genesis of getting involved with overseas recruitment and providing employers with help. EU-STEP (European Union-Skilled Trades Employment Program) never actually finished. It just petered out because no one was recruiting. We renamed and added a few new features to the program.”
EU-STEP began in October 2006 with a series of workshops designed to assist BCCA members hire skilled tradespeople from Germany.
As it expanded, the program placed skilled workers from Germany, Finland, Russia and the Ukraine, as well as Central and South America.
The BCCA is returning to Ireland next week with a delegation of about 15 construction companies to recruit foreign workers.
They will be attending job fairs in Dublin (Sept 28-29, Oct. 5, Oct. 6-7), Cork (Oct. 2) and Belfast (Oct. 4).
While on the trip, the BCCA will represent about 85 B.C. construction firms.
Next, the delegation is going to Glasgow, Scotland to talk to contractors, training providers, government officials and workers between Oct. 8-12, in order to examine the apprenticeship training system and facilitate recruitment in the country.
These meetings will be followed by a job fair on Oct. 13-14.
The Construction Sector Council estimates the B.C. construction industry will need to attract and retain 20,000 new workers to meet labour requirements between 2012 and 2020.
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