Crisis in home improvement business sector
Home renovation and building requires people to do the work. Spring is the time for getting home improvements underway. With the growing population of home-owners in Aylmer, the Bulletin has been preparing an annual special edition about home improvements. Builders are saying they can’t handle any more work – there are too many jobs with too few labourers to carry out the work. As readers of the Bulletin know, there is a shortage of workers of all types in the region.
We are facing a circle of cause and effect, which is grinding business to slow-down. Workers are being shipped in from Montreal to handle the bigger jobs – hundreds of new housing units are going up every season – and the older homes in need of a refresh are on a five-year waiting list to be done. The effect is an increase in the cost of everything (a roof left unfixed just gets more expensive to fix). And with the rush to finish new builds, down goes the quality.
The flipside to this situation is that Gatineau – and Aylmer in particular – businesses say they are struggling, something that happens in an under-employed community. With full employment, folks should be making good money, spending it locally, and thus keeping local businesses afloat comfortably. Why this is not happening in a time of disequilibrium in the construction in industry points to a problem in how West Quebec handles its workforce. Hiring outside the region is an obvious obstacle to improving the health of a local economy. This is happening, with workers being shipped in to Aylmer for bigger construction sites and even road works.
Skilled workers in residential construction need to have certain qualifications in Quebec, and even elsewhere, to gain permission to work on new building sites, or even apprentice on renovation jobs. At the Bulletin, we see a disconnect between people looking for work and the industry that is so busy, the hiring process is handed over to the provincial accrediting association.
But if the communication is handled by a third party there are few guarantees ensuring that enough locals are getting accredited. Do they even know there are openings on local building crews? At the newspaper, the publicity team has been working to invite local home improvement companies to promote themselves in a special edition. They are so busy as it is, the builders say they can’t handle more work. These local companies are living proof of a broken system. If plumbers, designers and patio-builders don’t have the time in March to encourage Aylmer home-owners to spruce up their properties with professionals, what will Aylmer look like in ten years as the companies don’t build their brand publicly? The solution lies somewhere within a strong recruitment and training campaign to pull locals into the skilled trades while the builders continue situating themselves as local experts.
It is the Bulletin’s hope that the newspaper will be at the centre of this community building.