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Nova Scotia Community College

Nova Scotia Community College - Where There is a Will, There is a Way

Necessity is the mother of invention – and innovation. Drywallers in Nova Scotia, like many industries across the country, are facing a shortage of skilled labour. Thanks to some fast and flexible thinking on the part of the Nova Scotia Community College – and a little SmartBusiness – that shortage is about to become much less critical.

“Construction is a rapid-fire industry. In the course of a day, dozens of tradespeople will come to the site, do their job and move on. It’s essential that we have skilled employees on those sites to ensure the job is done properly, effectively and safely,” says Don Chisholm, owner of Tartan Drywall Ltd. in Dartmouth.

“Unfortunately,” notes Gary Pinaud, president of Pinaud Drywall and Acoustical Ltd., “we’re losing our skilled people. Many of them are retiring, and there are fewer and fewer apprentices in the industry.”

The first step in meeting the labour challenge was recognizing there was a challenge. The Greater Halifax Partnership met with drywall companies throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and discovered the need for skilled workers was so severe many firms were hiring new employees with no skills in the field, then taking the time, and expense, to train them in-house.

The Partnership turned to the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), which designed a customized program – from the ground up. “We talked with industry representatives – owners and union workers – and realized the problem was severe. We developed a comprehensive course that will train young people in drywall and acoustical services, and the industry endorsed that program,” notes Charlie Francheville, NSCC’s manager of customized training with the Akerley campus.

That training program mirrors the reality of working in construction. In addition to learning about the industry, students learn first hand how to install drywall – and how to install it right. Ensuring the practical application of the course – critical to success on the job – was a central component, NSCC converted an old warehouse to office space. Here the students did the job they will be doing on construction sites throughout Nova Scotia. “We had professionals inspect their work, and they said it was as good as or better than anything anyone is doing in the market today,” says Francheville.

“The result will not only mean high-quality work,” notes Paul Barrett, contract manager/owner of Citadel Drywall and Acoustical Ltd., “it will also mean access to young people who know the industry and the job that is required of them.”

Drywallers are not alone in their need for new skilled workers to replace retiring workers and to meet the increasing demand for new employees required by a growing industry. “We understood the problem,” says Chisholm. “What we needed was the will – and the way – to make things happen.”

The first 10 graduates of Nova Scotia’s first drywall and acoustical course are graduating this spring. Many have already received job offers. Clearly, the will and the way have been found.

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