PEI’s road and bridge building is expected to have a good year
Road builders and heavy construction companies on Prince Edward Island do work such as paving, bridge building, sanitary and storm sewer construction, site work, snow plowing and demolition. Mechanics are the most difficult jobs to fill. With the downturn out west, many operators have returned to Prince Edward Island. It should help with some of the shortages of skilled workers in the industry.
Road Builders support economic development
Road builders and heavy construction companies on PEI do work such as paving, bridge building, sanitary and storm sewer construction, site work, snow plowing, and demolition.
PEI Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paul Biggar says she looks forward to a year of strategic investments in highway infrastructure. The department plans 23 road projects and 14 bridge projects across the Island in the 2017 construction season.
“The Trans-Canada Extension in Cornwall is a perfect example of projects that enable and encourage economic growth while making transportation safer and more efficient,” Minister Biggar says.
“I am optimistic about the state of the industry in 2017,” says Joe Murphy, Executive Director, PEI Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association. The first round of 2017 road and bridge tenders was announced January 31, and a further round is expected in the coming weeks.
“2016 was very slow at first,” says Joe. “Tenders were out early, but projects were slow to get federal approval because of the change in government. Even for tenders that went out last February, it was late July before they were approved.
“Federal approvals should come a bit faster this year. I have made our concerns known to our Members of Parliament, and they understand how important that is.”
When project start dates are delayed, Joe says employee retention can be an issue. “In trying to hold on to their crews, companies try to find a bit of work here or there. For example, one company that as awarded a contract was not able to start until September, and he was trying to hold onto his crew with small jobs.”
In 2016, 14 bridge projects were completed, and more than 100 kilometers of road were repaved or reconstructed. “In total, $40 million was spent on bridge and highway programs, including $6.2 million on the Cornwall Bypass. For national and collector highways, $25 million was spent.
“In 2017, the budget forecast is $39.5 million, with $14 million of that funding going to the Cornwall bypass.”
Projects for 2016 and 2017
The biggest project in 2016 was the construction of roundabouts for the Cornwall bypass. Another roundabout will be constructed at the North River intersection.
“Last year, there was approval to cost-share the resource roads which head off the main highway towards fishing villages and farming communities. That work will be done this coming year.
“The budget for 2016 as $25.5 million, but they actually spent $36.5 million because funding for the Cornwall bypass was not included. They also spent $4 million more on national roads. Bridge construction cost an additional $800,000. This year, $39.5 million is budgeted, but that number could change.
“Our industry is also kept very busy with snow plowing for the province. Private contractors plow about half the roads on PEI, and the rest are plowed by people directly employed by the province.”
Jobs in road building
- Heavy Equipment Operators
- Truck Drivers
- Heavy Equipment Mechanics
- Supervisors and Superintendents
- Consulting Engineers who design the roads
“Qualified Heavy Equipment Operators are the most difficult position to fill. Many of the older operators who have been there for years are beginning to retire. To replace them with new younger qualified people is difficult. Some have gone out west and gained experience there, and now that the downturn has brought many home, some have found work here. Good operators are important – they need to be experienced when operating a $250,000 machine.
“With the downturn out west, many skilled people have returned to PEI. It should help with some of the shortages of skilled workers in the industry. However, PEI employers cannot match the rate of pay workers receive out there.”
Researching the companies in the industries
Close to 4,000 people are employed directly and indirectly in the industry at the peak of the season.
The Road Builders and Heavy Equipment Association has 20 road building members and about 100 associate members that supply goods and services to the industry such as fuel an parts. “The number of associate numbers has grown because there are more companies now, and more are joining the association because they want to network and work with the members.”
Visit www.peirb.ca and click on Our Members for a list of employers in the industry.
Road/Bridge Building companies on Prince Edward Island – Hiring practices
Help for employers to recruit, retain, and advance women in trades on PEI
In the summer of 2015, Women’s Network PEI began a three-year project called Supporting Island Trades Employers (SITE). Phase 1 is complete, and Michelle Blanchard is coordinating Phase 2.
“It’s a supply and demand equation,” says Michelle. “Our Trade HERizons program has supplied trades women, and now the SITE project is working with trades employers to increase demand. We are looking at their workplace practices and suggesting ways to recruit, retain, and advance women on PEI.”
The 12 employers on SITE’s advisory board represent companies across the Island, from smaller businesses such as Ridgeline Construction with 10 employees to larger firms such as Holland College and Maritime Electric.
“The project found that employers of all sizes have common concerns. SITE can help small employers which don’t have a human resource department to build their own action plans. We help them track their changes and look at their outcomes. The companies seem open to change.”
As part of the project, Michelle analyzed participating companies’ HR policies and employee orientation manuals. Focus groups were also held with Island tradeswomen.
“Since its start in 2009, Trade HERizons has helped to almost triple the number of tradeswomen on PEI. Yet we are hearing some women feel a sense of isolation because they are the only female in the shop. We have created professional development workshops where they can share ideas. Some of our employer advisors have agreed to sponsor these workshops.”
Monthly information sessions with employers will be held on general workplace issues. Employers will also have the opportunity to promote their companies and possibly recruit future employees.
“The knowledge-sharing piece of this project is going to be huge. After we have learned all we can from employers and employees, we will ask how we can best share this information to make workplaces more welcoming. Trades work can be challenging; for example, some women may not be able to do a lot of heavy lifting.
“I know of one employer who makes sure his female employee is busy doing something else when a heavy delivery comes in.
“I think the SITE project will have a lasting impact on the way PEI trades employers accommodate their employees.”
For more information on Women’s Network PEI, call 902-368-5040. Visit www.wnpei.org.
Funded by Status of Women Canada.
|For more information about the Road & Bridge Building sector on PEI, call 902-894-9514. Visit www.peirb.ca.|
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