The number of non-graduates entering the construction industry jumped in 2021, new data La Presse has revealed. Figures that surprise the Corporation of Master Electricians of Quebec and worry the FTQ-Construction.

The number of new non-graduate employees in the construction industry in 2021 has seen a sharp increase in several trades, according to figures compiled by the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ).

16,929 non-graduates entered the job market, while only 4,783 held a vocational diploma (DEP) in their trade. In 2017, on the contrary, the proportion was similar, i.e. 5,728 non-graduates against 5,430 graduates.

When La Presse presented the figures to the Corporation of Master Electricians of Quebec, its representatives believed that they were incorrect.

“I was a little surprised to see that we went from 208 in 2020 to 630 in 2021. I think the number is significant,” said Michel Bonneau, director of technical services and occupational health and safety at the Corporation.

“When we see that the number of people entering construction without a vocational diploma increases, we are worried about the future of the industry, because it will lead to a lack of skills throughout the industry,” says Éric Boisjoly, general manager of the FTQ-Construction.

In 2017, only 126 unqualified electricians entered the construction industry market. In 2021, they were 630.

On the other hand, the number of new electricians who obtained their DEP remained stable. Since 2017, the number of graduates who have completed the 1800 hour training has only increased by 186, as shown in the table.

“All apprentices, graduates or not, are always under the supervision of a journeyman electrician, assures Michel Bonneau. It is his responsibility to ensure that the work carried out is compliant. However, if you hire someone who has not yet started their training, they will be limited in the tasks they can perform. »

Michel Bonneau recalls that the eight new CCQ measures that came into effect in April 2021 allow workers to have access to the field without necessarily having obtained the DEP in electricity.

The situation is similar for plumbers. The number of new unqualified pipe fitters increased from 131 to 292 between 2017 and 2021. During this period, the number of graduates remained stable at 492 and 456.

The Corporation of Master Pipe Mechanics of Quebec believes that the situation is not ideal, but that the high number of non-graduates in this field is also explained by one of the eight measures put in place in 2021. now recognizes the relevant experience acquired outside the industry, which promotes, for example, the integration of newcomers, maintains the Corporation.

“It’s not just anyone that we take on the edge of the street, what we call in our jargon ‟the opening of the basins”, specifies on the telephone Steve Boulanger, general manager of the Corporation. the pipe fitters, the basins didn’t open and never open. That’s not how those people got in.”

Before the arrival of the eight measures, in April 2021, workers entered the industry mainly in two ways: either with a DEP and a guarantee of 150 hours from an employer, or without a diploma with a guarantee of 150 hours of from an employer, but when opening a labor pool for the desired trade in his region, i.e. when the CCQ calculates that there is an insufficient number of workers.

Among the new data from the CCQ, bricklayer-masons without a diploma are also more numerous, while the number of new graduates has dropped.

Among carpenters, the number of graduates entering the job market has fallen year after year, while the number of non-graduates peaked in 2021. It fell from 796 in 2017 to 5,252 in 2021.

For the electrician and pipefitter trades, it is not the opening of the basins that explains the increase, specifies Marie-Noëlle Deblois, public affairs adviser at the CCQ. “For the other trades you cite, it is true to say that the pools have been opened much more often in recent years, which is explained by unprecedented labor demands. »

Marie-Noëlle Deblois recalls that economic activity, which is reaching unprecedented heights, and the general labor shortage are putting significant pressure on the mechanisms for entering the industry. These mechanisms were designed in a totally different context to respond to issues that are no longer the same as before, she explains.

“Access to the industry is a big challenge, as is the integration of underrepresented groups, the retention of workers. »

With the Training Recovery Assistance Program (PARAF) launched in November 2020 and Operation Workforce announced in November 2021, the Ministry of Labor and Employment is committed to training more people, particularly in the construction sector, supports communication and media relations advisor Catherine Poulin by email.

It indicates that with respect to the professions of electrician and carpenter-joiner, 1,699 people participated in the workforce training measure (MFOR) funded by the Ministry from April 1, 2021 to March 22. 2022. “We see that training is on the rise in both sectors,” writes Catherine Poulin.

In carpentry-joinery, the number of participants increased from 621 to 889 (from April 2021 to March 2022). In the electricity program, the number increased from 155 to 328.

According to the FTQ-Construction, the industry would benefit from resolving the lack of coordination between trade schools and the CCQ, which means that non-graduates are sometimes hired by employers before graduates.

“When the pools open just before the cohorts graduate, we’ve had examples of that, the graduates end up with employers who prioritized people without a diploma, because they needed a workforce two weeks before the end of their training”, says Éric Boisjoly.

Better coordination would have benefits for the entire industry, according to the CCQ report Les abandonments dans l’industrie de la construction au Québec, published in January 2021. After 5 years, 35% of non-graduates leave industry, compared to 24% of graduates.


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