Canada's Condominium Magazine

Canadian workers are happiest, but skilled trades shortages persist

Last fall an international survey by and GfK found that Canadians are the most satisfied workers in the world, and no, it’s not that we’re just too polite to complain. Some do have problems with their bosses, and some don’t think they’re paid enough, and others downright hate their jobs, but feel they have no choice but to keep at it. But the majority, 64 per cent, either love their job and would do it for free, or like it a lot. Young people, the survey found, were more likely to be unhappy with their jobs and feel they could do better.

What makes people happy at work? It isn’t necessarily money, though there’s strong correlation between pay level and job satisfaction, with the highest earners expressing the highest satisfaction, and the lowest earners the lowest satisfaction. Of course, the correlation isn’t necessarily one of simple cause and effect: those who earn the most tend to do jobs that are more interesting and rewarding in other ways. Low-paid workers tend to be in jobs where monotony and lack of opportunity for advancement are common.

Leaving aside remuneration, experts are fairly consistent in describing the factors that make a career/job satisfying. People tend to flourish in work when

  • they are able to make the best use of their skills and talents
  • they have opportunity to grow and expand
  • they feel a sense of purpose, that they are contributing something meaningful
  • they are doing something that fits their own value system, something they can take pride in
  • they have a deep interest in the work

Explore the subject of job satisfaction further here.

What does a job like that look like? It could be a high-status profession like medical doctor or university professor. It could be a job in the financial sector—a money manager, investment banker, actuary, or accountant. IT jobs, including mobile developers and software engineers, are in high demand, especially among younger workers, and pay well. All of these jobs give workers ample scope to use their skills fully, grow, feel a sense of purpose and meaning, exercise their core values, and follow a path that interests them.

Why not a skilled trade?

Or it could be a skilled trade. In fact, because of a shortage of skilled tradespeople in Canada, jobs for everything from chefs to electricians, carpenters to aviation technicians, are going begging. The shortage of skilled construction workers in BC is so severe that the BC Construction Association had to go to Ireland to recruit hundreds of workers last fall, and the situation remains serious. According to a Carleton University professor, Canada will have a shortage of 800,000 skilled workers in the coming decade.

One projection has fully 40 per cent of all new jobs in the next two decades in the skilled trades and technologies.

Jobs in the skilled trades tend to pay better than average wages. Statistics Canada gives $22.36 as the average hourly wage for a skilled tradesperson; the average for all occupations is $21.02.

The jobs are there. The wages are good. Why is there a shortage? Perhaps it’s a question of poor image, compounded by lack of information. A survey by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and Skills Canada found that many Canadian youth (42 per cent) wouldn’t even consider a career in skilled trades. Only 26 per cent said they would consider such a career. Two-thirds of young people said they would choose university as their first post-secondary education option and 71 per cent claimed that guidance consellors in high schools do not encourage students to go into skilled trades.

With such shortages of workers, you’d think employers would be welcoming every job applicant with open arms. But applicants don’t get the welcome mat if they lack experience, and one of the ways to gain that experience is through apprenticeship programs. But not all employers offer such programs. One employer told the Toronto Sun’s Jobboom recently that it was difficult for his organization (Ontario Power Generation) to find the skilled workers to meet their needs. “There are a large amount of interested applicants, but only a small percentage has the required skill set needed for these positions.”

This is why programs like B.O.L.T., a joint initiative of Tridel and several non-profits and educational institutions in the Toronto area, are vital. B.O.L.T. combines information about the trades in a construction industry context through an outreach program—the annual Day of Discovery at a Tridel construction site—and financial incentives for students in need through a growing scholarship program. The Day of Discovery helps students who may not have made up their minds about a career in construction, by showing them what it’s really like, and what the opportunities are. The scholarships can make the difference between dreaming about such a career and going for it.

Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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