Construction | The number of unqualified workers is exploding

The number of undergraduates entering the construction industry has risen in 2021, new data shows: The press has got. Figures that surprise the Corporation of Master Electricians of Quebec and disturb the FTQ Construction.

Posted at 5:00 am

Isabelle Dube

Isabelle Dube
The press

According to figures from the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ), the number of new non-qualified workers in the construction sector has increased sharply in 2021 in several occupations.

16,929 undergraduates entered the labor market, while only 4,783 had a vocational education diploma (DEP) in their subject. In 2017, on the other hand, the proportion was comparable at 5728 non-graduates compared to 5430 graduates.

When The press presented the figures to the Corporation of Master Electricians of Quebec, its representatives believed they were incorrect.

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

“If we see the increase in the number of people entering construction without a vocational qualification, we are concerned about the future of the industry as it will lead to a skills shortage across the industry,” said Éric Boisjoly, general manager of the FTQ-Building.

In 2017, only 126 unqualified electricians enter the construction market. In 2021 there were 630.

In contrast, the number of new electricians achieving their DEP remained stable. Since 2017, the number of graduates who completed 1,800 hours of training has only increased by 186, the table shows.


“All apprentices, graduate or not, are always supervised by a journeyman electrician,” assures Michel Bonneau. It is his responsibility to ensure that the work performed is compliant. However, if you hire someone who has not yet started his education, he will be limited in the tasks he can perform. †

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

These are temporary measures that have been proposed and adopted in the context of the tight labor market.

Michel Bonneau, Director of Technical Services and Occupational Health and Safety at the Corporation

The situation is similar for plumbers. The number of new uncertified 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 undergraduates in this field is also explained by one of the eight measures introduced in 2021. The Corporation now recognizes the relevant experience that is outside the industry, which promotes the integration of new entrants, for example.

“It’s not just someone we hire on the side of the street, what we call in our jargon the opening of the basins,” said Steve Boulanger, CEO of the Corporation on the phone. the pipe fitters, the basins haven’t opened and never open. That’s not how these people got in.”

Before the arrival of the eight measures, in April 2021, workers mainly entered the industry in two ways: either with a DEP and a 150-hour guarantee from an employer, or without a diploma with a 150-hour guarantee from an employer, but when opening a labor pool for the desired trade in its region i.e. when the CCQ calculates that there is not enough labor.

Under the CCQ’s new data, unqualified masons are also more numerous, while the number of recent graduates has fallen.

Almost four times fewer graduates

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

For the professions of electrician and pipe fitter, it is not the opening of the basins that explains the increase, says Marie-Noëlle Deblois, public affairs adviser at the CCQ. “For the other professions you mention, it is true that the swimming pools have opened much more frequently in recent years, which is explained by the unprecedented demand for labour. †

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

“Entry to the industry is a major challenge, as is the integration of underrepresented groups, the retention of workers. †

Training on the rise, Ministry of Labor assures

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

She indicates that with regard to the professions of electrician and carpenter-joiner 1,699 people participated in the 1er April 2021 to March 22, 2022. “We see training in both sectors on the rise,” writes Catherine Poulin.

In carpentry and 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.

A lack of coordination, argues the FTQ-Construction

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

“If the pools open just before the cohorts graduate, we’ve had examples of that. Graduates are with employers who have prioritized people without qualifications because they needed staff two weeks before the end of their training,” says Éric Boisjoly .

Better retention of graduate workforce

Better coordination would benefit the entire industry, according to CCQ report Quebec construction industry dropoutspublished in January 2021. After 5 years, 35% of undergraduates leave the industry, compared to 24% of graduates.

More information user manual

  • 1522
    This was the number of female painters in construction in 2021, the field where we find the largest female presence. Carpenters follow with 1,168, laborers with 1,122 and electricians with 489.

    Source: Quebec Construction Commission

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