Title: Needs Assessment for the Construction Industry in B.C.& the Yukon
Organization: BC Construction Industry Skills Improvement Council
Complete text:

Increasingly, the world of work is bearing the imprint of changing technology and increased competitiveness. Educational and technical standards which once served workers well now may be barely adequate to sustain present jobs and future employability. There is a growing realization by workers in all sectors of the economy that upgrading has become an essential part of life. Employers are demanding greater skills of new entrants to the job market and are seeking heightened skills of workers already in the workplace. Both employers and unions are addressing the challenge of training and retraining.

This need is particularly felt in the construction industry which has been affected by technological change in many ways. You have only to look at several areas of the industry to see how change is exemplified. Laser technology is affecting the work of the machinist, while elevator constructors are moving from conventional relay logic equipment to solid state equipment and microprocessors. Even the labourer, traditionally regarded as the incumbent of one of the lesser skill areas, is affected by new technology, as in the use of "total stationing units" to replace the old transit and level used in survey work. The "total stationing unit" shows information on a screen, and math is then used to chart and graph it and transfer it to a field book. Virtually no skill or trade area is untouched by change.

The collective agreements in the industry encourage technological change as a means of increasing economic efficiencies. Training and retraining programs are no strangers to the construction industry. Indeed, the construction industry has piloted the use of the training trust fund, jointly funded by business, labour and employees to deliver a wide range of technical and trades expertise to union members in the trades. Such training has, however, for the most part concentrated on the practical and technical aspects of jobs. Little attention has been paid to the basic skills of reading, writing, numeracy and oral communication which are fundamental to successful work and the base of effective training.

SkillPlan was established to look at this vital area of basic skills acquisition and enhancement. The identification of the skills which workers need and the skills which workers have will help to determine training requirements and priorities. In addition, the whole area of worker aspirations forms part and parcel of an effective approach to training.

Basic skills have often been looked upon as disembodied - as part of a general education obtained in or through the schools and quite foreign to the world of work. The analysis of skills which follows will be looking at basic skills from an entirely different perspective. Our view is that basic skills and trades skills are integrated parts of one whole, and that basic skills can no more be ignored in creating the whole worker than can the prized technical skills.

The SkillPlan agenda will rest on this view and will build upon the concept of lifelong learning.


CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The responses to the Basic Skills Needs Assessment questionnaire provide a snapshot of the industry. They reveal the range and scope of training initiatives in general, not just with regard to basic skills but in the fuller dynamics of training. They reveal as well a picture of an industry engulfed in changes - changes in technology, changes in systems, changes in approaches and directions.

While this analysis concentrates on "basic skills" aspects of the trades, it is impossible not to look at the broader picture revealed by the assessment. Indeed, it is the placing of the basic skills aspects within the context of the broader scene that allows us to draw conclusions as to how basic skills upgrading may contribute to a more positive and productive working environment.

Each of the 27 questions asked in the Needs Assessment Questionnaire has provided input to the conclusions and recommendations which follow.


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