What trades students have to say about working in construction in PEI
The Construction Association of PEI estimates that the industry on the island is short of 1,000 workers.
Several theories have been put forward to explain this shortage: low pay compared to other parts of the country, aging demographics, the rigors of working as so many work-from-home opportunities open up, low retention rates for immigrants.
One of the keys to filling these jobs and keeping them occupied is to ensure that trades students at Holland College stay in PEI. after graduation.
CBC PEI brought together a panel of three trades students from Holland College to hear their opinions.
Emily Elliott and Inderdeep Singh are carpentry students, and Egan McCaughey is in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning program.
Here is that conversation, edited for length.
Why did you want to get into the business?
I started getting interested in it last year. I was visiting family and friends, and I noticed all over the island that there was a real shortage of workers they could find to do renovations on their homes. Many people had projects they desperately needed, like roofs that needed fixing. And yeah, they just couldn’t find someone to do it for them, or if they could find a company that could potentially come and see their house, they were very aware that it might take a year or two before real progress is made. . I was really interested in coming to the field and maybe helping with that.
I was doing a little helping hand with my uncle, he does renovations and stuff in Ontario, so that’s what caught my interest. I have a small painting business, like doing residential and commercial. I just wanted to have an addon just to learn how carpentry works.
It’s kind of like Inder said there. I started working in the trades in the summer with a friend of the family. And my whole family also comes from the trades. So I saw a lot of benefits working there. The salary being very good, not spending a lot of time in school was an important factor for me. I didn’t want to spend too much time at school. I just wanted to get to work.
Since you started your program, has your vision of the job market changed?
There seems to be a lot of people getting into trades right now, which is very nice. I started looking at some options across Canada. I think in the first years of my apprenticeship I might travel a bit, but I think in the long term I would like to work here on the island.
There is a lot of construction going on. All trades have great needs and I’ve heard about it, like, there’s a shortage of carpenters. I plan to be part time in carpentry because I just want to continue with my business, like the painting business, which I want to do full time. But I plan to be on the island.
I plan to stay on the island for sure. There’s a lot of work here, and there’s a lot of companies that are always looking for guys, you know, good companies too, that seem to be very good for workers, you hear. As soon as I walked into the classroom, I kept hearing about people emailing my teacher, looking for students to [on-the-job training] and look for them to enter the job after graduating. So I know there is no shortage of work here in PEI, that’s for sure. So it looks good.
Remuneration has been discussed as a factor in the shortage of labor on the Island and particularly the remuneration of qualified people. Does this concern you?
I don’t find that worrying, you know, you can still progress through bouldering programs, you know, first boulder, second, third, fourth, and possibly your Red Seal. If you’re looking for more money, it’s as simple as going to pass your block and advance your career. So I don’t think there’s really a wage fight if you really work for it.
I think the salary is really competitive and that’s even good. You can go from a base salary to a good dollar an hour, so I’m pretty sure that’s something you could work on
Like the other guys were saying, it seems like there’s a really amazing growth opportunity every year as you progress through the block exams and then just increase your experience and increase the salary you earn. I think the island is an amazing place for any salary.
But you plan to start your career off the island. What led you to make this choice?
Especially just because of the salary differences in your first two years. And there are some really cool businesses out West that will have some nice perks and will keep you coming and going to the island to see your family. And then sort of working in a lodge with your team, which I like that kind of summer camp experience, really team-oriented. And so it’s something I’m considering and something that definitely caught my eye.
What do you hear from your classmates about staying and working in PEI?
Everyone is interested in working on the island. It’s also competitive salaries here now compared to a few years ago.
I have a very small class. We only have a class of seven guys, but half of them are from here and the other half from off-island. But from what everyone is saying, there is nothing more exciting for them than to enter the field of work, whether they stay here or go home. But being here and seeing all the job opportunities, I heard a few of them say that it is very attractive to stay on the island.
Pretty much the same thing Inderep was saying. Just that everyone is really excited to work here on the island and there are lots of opportunities all over the province. Like, there will be no problem finding work, so everyone is pretty excited to start here.