With the announcements from the provincial government that were tabled on Friday, October 22, 2021, it now looks as if there may be a light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the general contractors in Ontario, that translates into once again placing their full focus on procuring projects for 2022. Or can they?
Although some encumbrances that were magnified under COVID-19 have dissipated and we are beginning to move to pre-pandemic “norms,” there still exists a number that will continue to affect our members and that the OGCA will continue to focus upon.
So, what are the issues facing ICI construction over the next 12 months and how is the OGCA addressing them? Let’s see if I can provide you with some illumination.
Firstly, one of the predominant issues that continues to plague all sectors, but has been more pronounced in construction, is the lack of personnel. Why did I use the term personnel and not simply skilled trades? Although the skilled trades shortage issue has been the topic of much consternation in our sector for the past decade, this is not the only area that requires our attention.
The OGCA, through our Board of Directors, highlighted the need to attract more individuals to construction as a whole, but specifically to the categories of Site Supervisors and Project Managers. Clearly these two positions are critical for our members, and so the OGCA has enlisted the assistance of First Work (First Work – Ontario’s Youth Employment Network), who are Ontario’s leading youth employment network, and Purpose Co. (http://purposeco.us/), a workforce solutions organization, to create a working paper through an OGCA member taskforce.
The outcome of the seven month taskforce analysis includes recommendations and actionable solutions that the OGCA can then approach both government and industry on to increase the entrants into the Site Supervisor and Project Manager categories. As we approach the end of this taskforce, First Work and Purpose Co., have provided the OGCA with lists of the current potential recommendations for prospective career-pathway solutions that target the following groups:
- Youth: Within the school system, graduates from college or university programs and early entrants into the workforce
- Newcomers: With previous experience in the construction field
- Indigenous and women: Both within the construction industry and outside
- Current Employees: Looking to upskill into these career tracks
The second issue that continues to frustrate the general contractor’s ability to fully embrace the concept of acquiring more projects has been the significant supply chain disruptions that greatly impacted current work and that still threatens to affect future projects.
These disruptions have been twofold: first with the sudden, unpredictable and unprecedented increases in costs associated with construction materials, both the raw materials as well as the finished products. Second, the overall effect to the timing of deliveries for any construction project has also been thrown into disarray. What do both of these disruptions do to the overall ICI construction sector? They effectively create uncertainty and risk.
Since the onset of the supply chain issues, commencing in March of 2020, the OGCA has been involved in multiple tender and contractual matters wherein buyers of construction have been attempting to download all of the supply chain issues onto our contractors. The OGCA has been diligent in our responses as well as outreach on these issues of cost and timelines to affect positive outcomes for our members with the extension of tender completion dates and the inclusion of escalation clauses in contracts.
The OGCA continues to monitor the situation and to explore other possible contractual remedies that owners may consider as part of their contracts to further diminish the uncertainty and risk associated with our current supply chain dilemma. (The Dotted Line: Careful wording of contracts can combat price escalations | Construction Dive) This is a must since anecdotally, the OGCA understands that the current supply chain woes will continue for at least the next 12 months.
Lastly, although COVID-19 is looking like it may have run its course and that we are approaching a possible end date of March 28, 2022, when Ontario is aiming to lift all remaining measures, including masking requirements and proof of vaccination, this can easily change in the blink of an eye. Although the number of Ontarians getting vaccinated continues to increase, a new variant may threaten our possible departure from all these additional precautions and elongate our shared suffering.
The OGCA continues to dialogue with the provincial government on this issue and have been informed that the government will not introduce any additional vaccine requirements beyond what we have seen to date. This means that the construction industry will need to continue to wrestle with some owners making vaccinations a condition of employment, where others will not.
Since this isn’t an ICI issue solely, the OGCA will continue to work alongside the residential and heavy civil sectors to deal with the array of issues together. We will, of course, keep our members abreast of any and all developments.
Although we as a society are almost to the COVID-19 finish line, the OGCA will continue to monitor and assist in all of the above-noted issues that will continue to affect ICI construction over the next 12 months.
Should anyone want to discuss the above noted issues and/or the OGCA involvement on any of the initiatives, or if you require any assistance from the OGCA, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 905.671.3969.