Peterborough construction industry faces skilled labour gap

When it comes to skilled labour, Peterborough is seeing a shortage in workers. Mark Giunta reports.

Construction of the Brock Mission men’s shelter is well underway, but the contractor says finding skilled workers is an ongoing challenge.

Mortlock Construction has about 10 skilled trades workers on the mission site, but at the height of construction, there will be upwards of 40 workers needed.

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“We’re in a position where there is demand for these people and not enough people to fill the roles,” said Craig Mortlock, vice-president of Mortlock Construction.

“We’re just close enough to Toronto, so a lot of people choose to travel.  There’s often higher wages in the GTA.”

Mortlock Construction is located in nearby Cavan Monaghan Township. The medium-sized firm, which opened in 1947, employs around 40 people regularly but often subcontracts for skilled labourers for its projects — such as The Brock Mission rebuild and the now complete Hospice Peterborough.

“We have a very loyal group with us, because they see the value of working where they live,” added Mortlock.  “It’s a challenge and it’s growing.

“The demand is coming to a head and where there’s demand, people have the opportunity to be more nomadic and can look for the better offer.”

The company often looks for carpenters, labourers, site forepeople and site supervisors for its projects.

“This industry is harder to recruit for, because it’s demanding physically.  They need to be able to go, and work ethic is a big thing,” said Mortlock.

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Beyond losing workers to bigger centres, business experts suggest changes to training regulations in the trades could help ease worker shortages.

In Ontario, the ratio for apprenticeships is 1:1. That means for every apprentice, who needs training, an employer must have one journeyperson.

“We’re even saying, well in communities like Peterborough that don’t have masses like the GTA, how can we change those ratios safely to get more people working in our construction trades?” said Sandra Dueck, policy analyst for the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.

“We have to talk about the people who need retraining.  How do we effectively retrain people?  How do we retrain the people we have?

“There’s a lot of pieces that need to be looked at when we talk about skills.”

As for the Brock Mission, it’s expected to be complete by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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