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April 3, 2019

Construction industry battles biases to attract workers



As reported in The Globe and Mail, imagine someone telling you about this well-paying work: There are many openings, for young people too, and the pay is between $60,000 and $100,000 a year, depending on your motivation and whether you join the union, with full benefits. The work contributes greatly to the community. It takes skill and can be physically and logistically challenging, and you won’t be stuck behind a desk.

The job? Concrete finisher, the person who patches the sidewalk or pours the cement for someone’s new porch.

If your heart sinks at this point, you may be buying into a larger problem.

It’s what behavioural economists describe as the influence of societal and personal biases on decision-making, specific in this case to the line of work we choose.

The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), which represents residential builders, says stigma and biases get in the way of understanding the opportunities in trade work, and it is making its case with two research papers and a new series of short videos aimed at young people about construction jobs.

One paper surveyed more than 400 construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area and found that 96 per cent felt that stigma and negative parental influences are causing a shortage of workers. Many perceived a bias among the public against jobs that are seen as physically challenging or involve working with your hands. A majority of trade workers surveyed felt that the public ultimately lacked knowledge about what construction work truly entails.

“There is a stigma against skilled trades that was strongly reflected in the research. We need to change that narrative,” said Richard Lyall, the organization’s president.

But how?

The organization is looking to behavioural economics for help.

Keep reading in The Globe and Mail


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