After living in cramped quarters for what seems forever, the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario will finally be moving to a new home that is twice the size of its existing facility. Plans call for construction of a 45,000-square-foot building in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan to start this spring, with opening scheduled for Jan. 1, 2006.
The building, which will cost about $5 million to build, is being financed without any government assistance. Even in light of the pressing shortage of skilled labor in Ontario, the provincial government ignored ISCA’s pleas for funding help, explains a frustrated Hugh Laird, executive director of ISCA. "We’ve been trying to get government funding for years for this thing,” he says. "We just reached a saturation point where we realized we have to spend our own money to train our people.”
The larger facility will feature a significant increase in training space to deal with the unrelenting shortage of skilled drywall and EIFS tradespeople that just won’t go away. One of the big concerns is that even if the pace of construction slows, the workforce is aging with growing ranks nearing retirement age in the Greater Toronto Area. "In our present facility we’re not able to train enough men to keep up with attrition,” Laird says.
ISCA trains 240 drywall applicators and finishers annually, but will be able to train an additional 60 at its new digs. As for EIFS mechanics, all training has been done off-site due to a lack of space at the center. The new building, however, will have ready classroom seats for about 35 EIFS mechanics.
The association’s new home will also provide more space for tradespeople wanting to upgrade their skills. Currently, about 1,500 journeypersons are processed through upgrading courses annually at ISCA’s training center. That number will jump to about 2,000 at the new building. In addition, the new center will accommodate about 50 classroom seats for a spray fireproofing program and 100 seats in mold and asbestos remediation training.
Overall, Laird says the increased training space is "huge” and will make a serious dent in the industry’s skilled shortage woes. "And, our new home will be designed to accommodate an overflow of additional students if or when the need arises.”
The design-build project is by Belrock Construction Limited, one of Ontario’s largest design-build contractors. While final design details are not complete, the new center will be made of precast concrete and entirely funded by ISCA membership. Laird says the frustrating thing is that if ISCA was part of a community college system, the provincial government would be much more likely to dole out funding for the new facility.
Meanwhile, ISCA’s version of an EIFS apprenticeship program is up and running as of this January. Thirty-five students are in the 10-week in-class segment of the apprenticeship program. Once students complete classes, they will be required to put in 3,600 hours on the job to qualify for journeyman papers.
Although class time is structured like a fully indentured government-funded apprenticeship program, the provincial government hasn’t contributed a nickel. Funding is raised strictly through ISCA’s membership. Contractors contribute 25 cents per hour for every employee, but that number will have to rise to fully cover the training costs, which run at $110 (Cdn.) per day per student, explains Laird.
Two instructors have been hired, and training for the time being is done in the building of the Carpenters & Allied Workers Local 27.
About the Author
Don Procter is a free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.