DonDWest, a 31 year old Canadian, left this opinion post regarding construction standards as a comment at VREAA 9 Feb 2013. Headlined here as food for thought and fodder for debate:
“Shoddy and overpriced construction/engineering is a big problem in Canada, but I have a different take on what’s the cause. Not to sound like a Republican, but I believe corrupt unions have played a large part. I’ve experienced this first hand from a “young” person trying to enter the trades and then realizing the traditional route to getting in the trades is now economically infeasible at my age (31 years old).
Speaking of leaks, for example, it takes a 2-year trade diploma, a 1 year co-op, and a 4 year apprenticeship in my province just to become a fully licensed plumber. That’s the equivalent of a PhD equivalent level education in terms of time spent. No offense to the plumber, but you’re just a plumber, it shouldn’t take over 7 years to get licensed.
I don’t know about you, but starting a plumbing career at age 40, considering these are physical jobs where the retirement age is much sooner, doesn’t seem economically feasible. I laugh at people who tell guys now entering their late 20′s to early 30′s to “just get a trade” if you’re having difficulty breaking out of the low wage service sector mould.
What the unions have done is significantly convince the government to raise the barriers of entry into the trades for our young. This skews the supply and demand curve and allows older workers (who are mostly baby boomers) to bid up their wages. Ironically, this doesn’t result in better quality work, as there’s less competition coming from the young pressurizing the older workers to back up their wages. The older workers know their jobs are secure and this reflects in their work that’s poorly completed at a snail’s pace.
Oddly enough, due to the incidents of shoddy construction that result from this corruption, this is used by the unions as further leverage that the government needs to increase the levels of qualification in order to enter the trades. The unions created the problem, and their solution is to further reinforce the problem by upgrading credentials on the young, because perpetuating the problem is profitable for the unions and their workers. If the government just took a look at the average age of a construction worker and engineer today – they could easily see that the problem isn’t newbies coming on the scene messing things up.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if a young person wants to enter the trades, he is better off taking the small business route right away. He could start small by restoring old houses in rural Canada for example. I doubt it will take him 7 years just to figure it out, and he won’t be in so much debt due to education requirements, nor will he have to spend years upon years listening to condescending baby boomers that will only serve to hurt his confidence.”
Whatever measures are being taken to ensure sound construction standards in the lower mainland, they don’t appear to be working very well. Witness the tarps, even on buildings constructed after the leaky-condo scandals.
Obviously there have to be some basic standards to which the trades adhere. Over and above that, it is ironically likely that fewer restrictions to entry, and more competition (along with greater consumer expectations, and greater accountability for work quality), may well result in a better quality of construction than we are currently having to tolerate.