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Employers renew focus to tackle skills shortage

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by Lindsey Cole

The findings of the sixth annual Hays Canada Salary Guide paint a rosier picture for 2016, compared to a difficult 2015, with Canada’s construction employers optimistic for the year ahead.
Employers renew focus to tackle skills shortage

However, there is one large grey area that has industry respondents concerned: the skills shortage.

Seventy-eight per cent believe the sector suffers from a moderate to extreme skills shortage — 34 per cent state this is a consequence of less training and development and 31 per cent blame declining numbers of people entering the industry.

Andy Robling, vice-president of client development with Hays Canada, says while the findings may not come as a shock, the steps companies are taking to tackle the shortage is encouraging.

"It really hasn't changed much in the last year from previous years in terms of the skill sets that are in demand. Estimators, supers, senior project managers, they really continue to top the list of skills in demand and it's not looking like that will change for 2016," he explains, adding certified tradespeople are also in demand. "What we're seeing is companies thinking a little bit more about how they can attract those kind of people to their own business."

The Hays 2016 Salary Guide was conducted in October and is meant to highlight employer confidence, a look at business expectations and hiring trends and challenges.

More than half, 54 per cent, of respondents state they have chosen to offer training and professional development programs as part of a recruitment strategy. This was important to address, the results note, because 29 per cent of Canadian employees across all industries said they would leave an organization that doesn't support their aspirations.

"Training staff and supporting career development is no longer a nice-to-have perk. It's a basic employee expectation, not to mention a critical recruitment and retention advantage," says Hays Canada president Rowan O'Grady in a statement. "It's encouraging to see that construction firms have decided to take the bull by the horns and attempt to resolve their own talent shortage problems."

According to the guide, 50 per cent of construction employers anticipate increased business activity in 2016, with nearly 40 per cent intending to boost their headcount. In order to do so, companies are trying to boost their image.

"What we're also finding is more companies who are saying that part of their issue around attracting the right talent is them not having a high enough profile in the marketplace. Company reputation was actually a challenge and also low company profile," adds Robling. "It comes with the slight warning that skills are still hard to find, but if you position yourselves as an employer that's doing a lot about career progression, that's creating a good culture, that's prepared to make an investment in its people, than those are the companies that are going to fare better in the economy for next year."

A section of the guide features employer and job seeker insights which offer suggestions on how to deal with the skills shortage.

When it comes to employer insights, the report states:

—Be willing to move quickly to get good candidates;

—A long-term view of talent is important because of the shortage of senior candidates. Look for professionals with high potential and offer training; and

—Construction candidates stated they liked to work for high profile, innovative companies. Raise your profile on social media as a way to prove you are an employer of choice.

It was recommended job seekers:

—Stay on top of technology, especially construction–specific programs;

—Highlight end-to-end experience on your resume because of the project-to-project nature of construction work; and

—Try to emphasize your commitment to your new location as some employers are cautious about hiring someone who may leave when the economy strengthens.

While 2015 saw its share of economic challenges, the findings show the construction sector is optimistic for 2016. Seventy-six per cent of respondents expect the Canadian economy to strengthen or stay stable.

Robling says the construction sector was the "most positive sector out of the ones that we survey in terms of growth opportunities. That only exacerbates the issue around the skills shortage. It's a very robust sector with investment in key areas continuing. It's one of the strongest sectors in terms of expected hiring patterns for 2016."

Hays Canada is a subsidiary of Hays plc, a global company that specializes in recruiting expertise.

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