Keeping Apprentices Happy

Don Procter

January 2006

It is no big surprise that the drop-out rate of apprentices training in the building trades in Ontario is high—an average of 50 percent across the board. What is surprising, especially in light of the shortage of skilled labor in most trades, is that few trade associations have found a way to nip the problem in the bud.

One building association, however, might be onto something that could turn dissatisfied apprentices into happy ones more apt to stay in the field. The Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario has hired a full-time apprentice liaison officer, whose job will be to keep tabs on every working drywall apprentice. The idea is to catch problems apprentices have on the job before they flare up. The officer’s job will include dealing with the employer in cases where unfair treatment appears to be an issue.

Hugh Laird, executive director of ISCA, says while it costs a good buck to pay the liaison officer’s salary, he believes it is money well spent if it keeps students in the field.

The move by ISCA comes on the heels of an EIFS apprenticeship pilot program in which the association hired a liaison officer to regularly contact the 20 or so apprentices in the program. "Early indicators are that it was a smart move,” says Laird, noting that to date the retention rate is about 75 percent.

Meanwhile, Laird says that with ISCA’s new building opened as of January, the association will be able to train 30 new EIFS apprentices in class starting the third week of the month; another 16 will be trained in Hamilton at the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades.

Laird says it has been a great year for drywall contractors in the Greater Toronto Area, fueled by the residential boom, particularly in the lowrise and highrise condominium sector. While residential construction is expected to drop off about 5 percent in 2006, the ICI sector is expected to pick up the slack with an increase of about 10 percent over 2005.

On another front, after months of discussion and a lengthy search, the EIFS Council of Canada hopes to have their man, or woman, hired this month for the post of executive director of the council. That person will take a huge load off the shoulders of the board of directors, a voluntary group trying to keep up with the needs of the growing EFIS Council, says President Kevin Day.

Among the issues for the new executive director will be the implementation of the Quality Assurance Program nationwide and networking with various government agencies and associations to raise the profile of the EIFS Council. The executive director’s salary will be paid for through membership fees, which saw a sizable increase this summer "in keeping with the growth of our association,” Day points out.

In another effort to heighten the profile of EIFS, the council retained the services of a consultant at the University of Toronto to prepare a report on its merits as an environmentally friendly product, an energy-efficient product and as an economical alternative to other cladding systems. The objective largely is to develop a strategy to better market EIFS.

Also worth noting, the EIFS Council and the EIFS Industry Members Association have agreed to strike a joint technical committee to consolidate EIFS technological issues in Canada and the United States. The first meeting will be in Toronto next April, coinciding with the biannual ASTM meeting on EIFS.

About the Author
Don Procter is free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.