Canadian workers go to work on Parkway while Michigan workers wait for legislature to act

Skilled trades ramp up for parkway project

St. Clair College ‘swamped’ with course inquiries

By Dave Hall and Don Lajoie, The Windsor Star

WINDSOR, Ont. — Fuelled by anticipated job growth in the construction sector, near-term employment prospects in the Windsor region are expected to improve, according to a monthly help-wanted index released Wednesday by the Conference Board of Canada.

Windsor is one of 13 cities among 25 surveyed that are expected to see job growth over the next 12 months.

Alan Arcand, an economist with the board, said the Windsor-Essex Parkway is expected to generate hundreds of jobs, not only those directly involved in construction of the parkway, but also in spinoff sectors.

“We’re fairly optimistic about the Windsor economy because the parkway is a massive project that should fuel that economy for two years or so,” said Arcand.

At St. Clair College, the area’s construction boom has people lining up to take skilled trades courses over the winter.

Mike Silvaggi, registrar for the college, said Wednesday that the admissions office has been “swamped” with calls from people hoping to register for courses beginning next week in construction related fields like plumbing, welding and electrical trades.

“Supply and demand is the measure we use to determine programs,” said Silvaggi. “This past fall there was lots of interest in the skilled trades and the demand has pushed us to offer these courses for January.”

He said about 300 potential students have sought information on six construction and trades related courses from the registrar’s office since before the holiday break and that staff expects to be sifting through applications two weeks into the next term.

“We’d like to say this is a sign of the times,” he said. “When the economy is slow people go back to school. But this is different. This is people wanting to get their qualifications so that they can take advantage of new opportunities.”

Silvaggi said the college may have to recruit more instructors and part-time staffers to meet the demand, adding the school is ready to “open up” the programs to ensure all qualified applicants can land a spot in class.

Registration will continue through the second week after classes resume Monday.

Silvaggi said those taking the winter courses may be ready to start apprenticeships by the summer. The college had more than 8,000 students enrolled in September. Silvaggi said there may be fewer for the winter term but final figures won’t be known until registration is complete.

He said the college had “a spike” in enrolment as people returned to school at the height of the recession but those record-breaking numbers have begun to level off.

The jobs survey, which is conducted by Wanted Technologies, a Canadian company which measures hiring demand by analyzing 79 job-posting websites.

The conference board receives the raw numbers before generating its monthly index but Wanted Technologies does not provide sector-by-sector breakdowns.

“Manufacturing in the Windsor region has not seen much change in the recent past,” said Arcand. “Those numbers have been steady, in our view, rather than showing any increases or decreases.”

Other cities anticipating near-term growth include St. John’s, Halifax, Sherbrooke, Montreal, Sudbury, Toronto, Hamilton, St. Catharines-Niagara, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton.

Cities expecting stable job prospects are Saint John, Kingston, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Abbotsford-Mission, Vancouver and Victoria.

Those expecting a downward trend include London, Saguenay, Quebec, Trois-Rivieres, Ottawa-Gatineau and Thunder Bay.

In November, Windsor’s jobless rate was 10.8, up marginally from the previous month, but down by five percentage points from a high of 15.9 in June 2009.

Statistics Canada will release its latest unemployment report Friday.