Despite offering challenging work and excellent pay for a well-trained worker, the construction industry is faced with an aging workforce, and Canada’s Construction Sector Council (CSC) has created an e-strategy to deliver flexible training to meet the unique training needs of Canada’s many provinces. The first solution? Create a computer-based Pipeline Construction Safety Training course for the oil and gas sector.
Canada’s construction industry is very diverse as many provinces have different dialects, certifications and training specifications specific to the region. To ensure that the different viewpoints and perspectives represented reach a mutually beneficial consensus, the CSC partnered with construction industry experts to collectively address the skills shortage and make sure that the construction industry has a skilled workforce today and in the future. “One of the things we have to ensure is that if you’re a trainer in Ontario, that the training you provide there applies in Alberta or British Columbia. We’re trying to eliminate the barriers to training by establishing national standards that would be adopted by trainers in every province,” said George Gritziotis, executive director, Construction Sector Council.
Currently there are close to 1 million workers in construction in Canada: supervisors, operational people, apprentices and administrative staff. That number is subject to change because of the cyclical nature of the industry, but the need for a national training standard that would enable workers in all sectors of Canadian construction, from heavy industrial, institutional commercial and residential to civil engineering, to move unencumbered from one part of the country to another and work is vital.
“In the past each province could conceivably go off on their own and develop the content for that course. So you could have 10 different jurisdictions re-creating the wheel over and over again and developing it to various standards,” said Gritziotis. “We went to all the construction safety associations across Canada as well as related organizations, and they agreed to work together to develop the content that would be appropriate across all provinces. We also decided to make it available in a CD-ROM or Web-based format available for everyone.”
To standardize the different provincial requirements in safety training, the CSC developed a core curriculum where 70 percent to 75 percent of content is common across the country. Each province then adds 25 percent to 30 percent unique content to ensure safety compliance and provide additional information where needed. “Now an unemployed worker in Nova Scotia can log on to the site, pull down the unique info for Alberta and be prepared to go there and work,” said Gritziotis.
The goal for the Pipeline Construction Safety Training pilot is to have a worker take the course independently in a self-paced, e-learning format that will ensure worksite competency on easily transferable content that requires minimal modifications. There are significant training delivery cost savings and the ROI for the construction industry will be immediate since one clear benefit of better, more convenient safety training is a reduction of time lost from the job due to injury. “There is a real correlation between safety on the job site and employee retention,” said Gerry Harding, general manager, special projects for PeBen Industries and construction industry health and safety expert. “In this industry, if you’re providing a safe workplace, you’re going to attract a better quality of worker to your site. This is an expectation of the workforce today.”
Bluedrop Performance Learning President Emad Rizkalla praised the CSC’s use of e-learning technology as another way to deliver training to solve business problems. “The Construction Sector Council wasn’t distracted by the technology. They were just using it as an enabler. Organizations that have problems implementing successful learning think that the technology somehow breaks the rules, and you don’t have to be oriented toward business outcomes anymore. That just doesn’t work,” Riskalla said.
CSC is also developing a certification program for the Pipeline Construction Training program. This will ensure that individuals are trained to work on the job site in a safe manner. The Council has purchased a learning content management system (LCMS) to track learners and course performance, and to determine who has met the requirements and is certified to work. CSC will officially roll out the program in the next three to six months.
“Construction spends more on safety training than any other industry. To attract people into the industry, we need to have the best health and safety training possible,” said Gritziotis. “We have to use the most efficient and cost-effective venues for delivering that training, and e-learning is one of those ways. This is a starting point for us. We want to make sure that if someone’s coming into the industry, they have the appropriate training so people aren’t worried about losing a limb or a life. They’re going into a challenging and highly paid occupation, which is what you’ll get at Pipeline Construction.”