Closing the Zero Carbon Skills Gap in Ontario’s Construction Industry

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) has issued a new action plan designed to close the low-carbon building skills gap in Ontario’s construction industry.

Entitled “Trading Up: Equipping Ontario Trades with the Skills of the Future,” the report puts forward recommendations for new types of training, incentives and construction processes that will help the trades workforce support the construction and mass retrofit of buildings that lower greenhouse gas emissions.

With buildings accounting for 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, addressing the current gap in low-carbon building skills is critically important if Canada is to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. In Ontario, the most populous province, the impact of the skills gap is estimated at $24.3 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in foregone company revenues, with an additional $3.7 billion lost in foregone taxation.

The biggest challenge in residential construction is the need to replace over 113,000 skilled workers who are retiring
The biggest challenge in residential construction is the need to replace over 113,000 skilled workers who are retiring

Specifically, tradespeople need to be trained on how to build efficient building envelopes, including framing, insulation, windows and glazing; install advanced mechanical systems, including heating, cooling, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as maintain energy efficient furnaces, boilers, water heaters, solar panels and geoexchange systems.

The CaGBC report explores different delivery modes for training, ranging from full-time in-class courses to short online and on the job training as well as calling for a new certificate for low-carbon skills to help the construction industry identify and secure skilled trades for future projects. CaGBC’s report calls on governments to create supportive public policies and incentivize workforce education and training programs that industry should implement for workers at all career stages.

The evolution to green buildings comes at a time of transition and rapid growth for Ontario’s construction industry. More than 87,000 retirements – almost 20 per cent of the workforce – and up to 80,000 new jobs are forecast in the trades workforce over the coming decade. In the Toronto region alone, it is estimated that there will be 147,000 job openings in construction in the next 15 years. Filling these positions with people who are proficient in how to construct low-carbon buildings is of paramount importance as Canada moves towards a zero-carbon economy.

The “Trading Up” report was compiled by CaGBC with Mohawk College, McCallumSather, The Cora Group, the City of Toronto and the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA). The project was funded, in part, by the Government of Ontario. The report examines the Ontario construction industry, but its recommendations can be applied throughout Canada.

Akua Schatz is Senior Director, Market Development and Advocacy at the Canada Green Building Council.

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