Even with the drop in the price of oil, demand for Boilermakers is expected to be very strong in Canada over the next two years and beyond. In fact, there are not enough qualified Canadian Boilermakers to fill the positions that are available.

The most acute shortage of Boilermakers is felt by the shutdown and maintenance industry. For two to six weeks every Spring and Fall, the large-scale energy and industrial facilities we work in must shut down for inspection and maintenance. During this period, there are simply not enough Canadian Boilermakers to fill the demand.

Working with our contractors, the union has satisfied this demand by compiling a database of trained, qualified Boilermakers in Ireland and the US. (US members of the Boilermakers can work in Canada with their union travel card.) In mid-2015, British Boilermakers who are members of GMB were invited to join this pool.

Irish and British Boilermakers who take temporary assignments in Canada enter the country through the Canadian government's Temporary Foreign Worker programme. This programme permits non-Canadians to work in Canada for short periods of time to fill jobs for which not enough qualified Canadians are available.

Temporary foreign workers must have a letter from an employer confirming their position and duration. The employers themselves must file one or more applications with the government before they're allowed to hire non-Canadians for short-term work.

Depend on Boilermakers

The Boilermakers union is the biggest source of Boilermakers in Canada. We work with contractors to keep their maintenance and shutdown programmes on track because our members' work depends on it.

Some of the work performed during shutdown and maintenance season requires licensed, qualified Boilermakers. If skilled Boilermakers are not available, our members will suffer a drop in work and income. It's important to our members that shutdown season proceeds as planned.

The Boilermakers union has responded to the skills shortage by advertising for available Canadians, by increasing our intake of Canadian apprentices to the maximum and by helping our contractors find Boilermakers from outside Canada to fill the demand gap.

Why a shortage?

There are many reasons for Canada's shortage of skilled tradespeople. But in the case of the Boilermakers, there's one that stands out: limits to the number of apprentices.

Canada's rigourous apprenticeship system depends on the participation of government, business and unions. Government, through the various provincial education departments, supplies the learning facilities for the in-class portion of most apprenticeship programs.

One problem is that teaching facilities - both government and private - are completely filled with apprentices. The Boilermaker apprentice program is operating at 100% capacity.

The other problem is that it takes four years to graduate from the Canadian Boilermaker apprentice program. Even if we could double the number of apprentices being trained, it would take four years for them to move through the system.

No exploitation

In some low-paying sectors of the economy, companies are using the government's Temporary Foreign Workers program to save on their wage bill, paying non-Canadians less than they would pay a Canadian to do the same job.

This is not the case in the Boilermakers' programme. Contract Boilermakers from outside Canada who enroll in our programme are paid exactly the same as their Canadian colleagues.

Since it's run by the union, there is no profit involved in our programme and therefore no extra hidden charges or commissions to be paid to labour brokers.

If you're thinking of working in Canada, think Boilermakers first. Apply now to become a member of our team.