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Construction associations create program to keep young workers in rural areas

July 27, 2022  By Mrinali Anchan / CBC News

Three construction associations have created a worker-share program to encourage young workers to stay in rural Alberta.

And it seems to be working.

A variety of factors can impact the construction industry in rural Alberta, such as a project’s nature of work, an aging workforce and a limited number of people moving into those communities, a spokesperson for the ministry of labour and immigration told CBC News.

But when John Digman noticed young talent leaving the construction industry in Medicine Hat, Alta., he knew he had to act.

Digman partnered with the Grande Prairie Construction Association and the Alberta Construction Association. They reached out to the provincial government, pitching a pilot project that would fund companies to share workers for projects in rural communities.

If a company were to win a number of project bids, for example, it may not have enough people to do the work required. Meanwhile, another company that lost those bids may have to lay off its employees because of a lack of work, Digman explained.

The proposed pilot would allow companies with less work to lend their employees to companies with more work that are in need of workers, he said.

Some contractors had already been doing this on an ad hoc basis, Digman said.

After conducting further research and surveys from the community, Digman said it made sense to pursue the project.

The pilot project was accepted, and is related to government spending $3.6 million, over three years, on more than 620 work-integrated learning opportunities under an industry voucher program, a spokesperson told CBC News.

The ministry of labour and immigration has spent $185,500 through workforce partnership grants to the Alberta Construction Association to support the pilot project, as well as address the shortage of skilled construction workers in rural Alberta, the spokesperson said.

The four-phase project is in Phase 3, connecting companies in the Medicine Hat and Grande Prairie, Alta., areas.

The current phase runs until February, and will expand to include companies in Fort McMurray, Red Deer and Lethbridge.

(CBC News)

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