Labour shortage in Canada

2 October 2012 by Cristina Brooks

A tower operator shortage in Laborador and Newfoundland, Canada has pushed the provincial government to grant $700,000 for a training programme.

Enrolled operators can get the Red Seal certification required by contractors for work on the Hebron construction project, while meeting national regulations effective in the next 16 months.

The Hebron gravity-based structure project will build an offshore oil platform off the coast of St Johns, on the island of Newfoundland, by 2017.

Industry representatives working on mega projects in the province approached the engineer's union, Operating Engineers, Local 904, about the shortage.

The union's heavy equipment training facility, Operating Engineers College, Hollyrood, then asked the local government for funds to train Red Seal-certified operators.

The College has in the past opened its doors to crane operators when contractors needed them for big projects.

The last time was in the 1980s, when the college trained operators for a Hibernia, Newfoundland, based project.

The tower crane training program at the Operating Engineers College, opening in late fall 2012, will be the only one in the province tailored towards training Red Seal tower crane operators.

Lorna Harnum, administrator at the Operating Engineers College said, "Now we have provincial exams, but when it becomes Red Seal trade, everyone across the country would be required write the same exam.

"A Red Seal examination would allow you to go anywhere to work. It's not in effect just yet, but it's very close: 12-16 months."

"Yes, there's a shortage mobile crane operators and a shortage of tower crane persons, not only in Newfoundland but across Canada. Now we're bringing them in from across the United States," said president and business manager of the Operating Engineers, Local 904, Roy Hawco.

'We have apprentices but they aren't Red Seal certified yet," said Hawco.

Hawco says this is because it is difficult for apprentices with 1-6,000 training hours to get the 54,000 required training hours in on a real tower crane.