Breaking Down Barriers – Fostering Worker Mobility and Collaboration in Quebec’s Construction Trades

Picture two neighbouring provinces flexing their muscles in a construction tug-of-war: On one side is Ontario, brimming with robust development, and on the other, Quebec, doing its best to match stride. But…the latter is trailing, witnessing a productivity tarnish that’s leaving everyone puzzled. Put it another way–here’s a gap between these two heavyweight competitors–and it’s as wide as 10.4%

Unweaving the Productivity Puzzle

Luckily, the Quebec Construction Association (ACQ) is on a mission to figure this out. In fact, they rolled up their sleeves—figuratively, of course—and carried out an intensive study to put the pieces of this productivity puzzle together. Interestingly, what they found was a need for De-compartmentalizing trades—literally, breaking the walls between different jobs and roles–but still keeping safety in mind while answering questions such as How to Prevent Slips and Falls

Versatility: The Secret Weapon

The emphasis is on trades such as plastering, painting, and carpentry to become more skilled in multiple tasks. The more boxes a worker can tick off, the better. I mean, who doesn’t love a jack-of-all-trades, right? 

Why Work Smarter–Not Harder

Think about it—what if time spent in a role could be sliced by 10%? For an industry that clocked 210.2 million hours of work in 2022, that’s 21 million hours added back into productivity pocket. Or in layman’s terms, it’s the equivalent of 25 new elementary schools for Quebec. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone!

But, as ACQ spokesperson Guillaume Houle points out, there’s a not-so-silver-lining. With an 11,000 worker shortage in the construction sector, the question is, how can we do more with less? By advocating versatility in trades, the potential to buffer productivity dip looks promising.

More Solutions on the Way?

One potential solution proposed by the ACQ to boost output hinges on increasing inter-regional worker mobility. Simply put, it’s about eliminating red tape and allowing freedom of movement for workers across regions. Currently, there exists a network of regulations that puts a cap on the number of workers a contractor can bring onboard when they secure a contract outside their regional boundaries. 

ACQ spokesman Guillaume Houle highlights the adversity this situation presents by saying that businesses are unable to handpick their workforce as per their needs. This constraint limits the competitive spirit vital for regional growth.

The subject of local hiring preference has stirred up dialogue in the past, particularly during the Charbonneau Commission discussions. The concept more often than not kick-starts discontent (i.e. a heavy argument) when jobless construction workers observe a contractor from a different region bringing their own crew to work on a local project. Auxiliary strategies to kick productivity into high gear involve enhancing the skills and competence of workers, supervisors, and managers alike through better training measures. By nurturing an environment conducive to learning and development, the construction industry in Quebec could narrow the gap with its competitor, Ontario.

Craving for freedom and breaking barriers, Quebec’s construction industry has the solution in its sights—encouraging versatility among its construction heroes. So, in this tug-of-war, Quebec might be inching its way back.

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