Residential Construction Management
Canada’s in the market for tens of thousands of construction managers to oversee the millions of new homes we urgently need
Canada needs houses. The government has unveiled a lofty plan of welcoming roughly 1.5 million new residents over the next three years, but the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimated in 2022 that the country must build 3.5 million more homes by 2030 in order to make housing affordable. That’s why the need for skilled construction professionals will only increase, with development and construction companies eager to hire not just carpenters and tradespeople but also residential construction managers to plan, organize and direct their building teams.
Construction managers will be in high demand across the country over the next decade: the government of Canada has estimated that there will be 32,300 job openings in the field between now and 2031. Students looking to fill those roles can acquire the necessary training in a variety of ways. Many companies and employers require their residential construction managers to hold either a university degree in civil engineering or a college diploma in construction technology or similar fields. Both types of education offer solid foundation courses in project management, building codes and construction principles and materials.
Humber College in Toronto offers a three-year advanced diploma in construction engineering technology, which provides a comprehensive education that covers construction management from start to finish. The one-year construction project management program at Toronto’s Centennial College offers valuable training in a shorter time frame. Alternatively, construction management students may want to enrol in programs in Quebec or British Columbia, the two provinces (after Ontario) where the CMHC expects the most houses will be built by 2030. The British Columbia Institute of Technology’s construction management program can be followed on a full- or part-time basis, takes as little as two years to complete, and helps students prepare to manage projects for the likes of developers, trade contractors, municipalities and public-sector institutions. In Quebec, the 16-month specialized graduate diploma in project management for construction engineering, offered by Montreal’s École de technologie supérieure, is an attractive choice for French-speaking aspiring professionals.
In some provinces, residential construction managers require certifications, in addition to a college education, from regulatory authorities such as the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training System or the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail in Quebec. Certain companies may also prefer to hire individuals with extra credentials, like the nationally recognized Gold Seal Certification offered by the Canadian Construction Association, which validates skills and knowledge in construction management. The Project Management Institute (PMI) issues project management professional (PMP) and construction professional in built environments projects (PMI-CP) certifications that can give young professionals a leg up on their competitors.
Amit Aujla graduated from BCIT’s construction management program in December of 2022, and was immediately hired by Axiom Builders, a general contractor headquartered in Vancouver. His most recent project includes a 231-unit building for the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation, funded by both the provincial and federal governments. He expects that the influx of immigration and the particular need for more social housing around East Vancouver will keep him busy for years.
“This area needs a lot of help,” says Aujla, who adds that his degree gave him both the technical expertise and the soft skills to contribute in a major way. “If I didn’t have the degree, I wouldn’t have the credibility. It was a big stepping stone.”
Institutions are desperate for experts who can keep information safe from the prying hands of hackers
Cyberattacks are now front-page political news: last April, after pro-Russian hackers claimed responsibility for temporarily taking down Hydro-Québec’s website, the Prime Minister pledged that such attacks would not “cause us to rethink our unequivocal stance of doing whatever it takes for as long as it takes to support Ukraine.” Meanwhile, ransomware attacks—where a bad actor holds sensitive information or critical infrastructure hostage—have spiked sharply since our lives moved even more online. In the first year of the pandemic, ransomware attacks rose by nearly 500 per cent.
That increase is a big reason why (ISC)², a non-profit association of certified cybersecurity professionals, surveyed 1,000 C-suite leaders across five countries and found that even though 85 per cent of them expected to conduct layoffs during the economic downturn, their cybersecurity teams would be the least affected. In fact, (ISC)² estimates that the world needs 3.4 million more trained cybersecurity experts to join the 4.7 million already working in the field.
Anyone interested in answering the five-alarm call for more cybersecurity professionals might look first to the British Columbia Institute of Technology, which has multiple paths into the field. Most commonly, BCIT undergrads start with a background in computing, either with the computer information technology diploma, which primes students on the workings of information networks, or the computer systems technology diploma, which focuses more on programming—a path for those who may one day want to create cybersecurity software. Students who pursue the industrial network cybersecurity diploma will find themselves in the midst of a mock real-world cyberwar, where they split into lab groups that simulate factories trying to attack each other. Graduates of this diploma might head straight into jobs that protect critical infrastructure like hydro grids, water systems and nuclear systems.
Either way, after one of those two-year diplomas, students are eligible to move into BCIT’s bachelor of technology degree in digital forensics and cybersecurity. In this program, students delve deeper into the topic, learning such skills as how to put network security into place, investigate breaches and hunt down hackers, recover business assets after cyberattacks, and navigate digital information law.
On its campuses in southern Ontario, Sheridan College offers another option for those eager to get into cybersecurity. Its honours bachelor of information sciences (cyber security) program, which includes courses on network security, ethical hacking and database security, also includes an eight-month paid internship between the third and fourth year. Taking even a few courses in cybersecurity is great for anyone whose work might require at least some knowledge of the field—which is, frankly, pretty much every profession nowadays.
Electric Vehicle Technology
As Canada chases a net-zero future, the need for EV technicians is accelerating
Last December, the federal government announced that all cars sold in Canada must be fully electric by 2035. Since then, there’s been lots of discussion about the need for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure—getting millions of charging stations in place along highways and across cities. There has been less talk, though, about where to take an EV when it’s not working, or who’s going to maintain all those stations once they’re up and running.
Clean Energy Canada, a climate program within Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., has declared that EV technology will be the fastest-growing clean energy industry over the next decade. That starts now, not in another 12 years, when the government’s mandate comes into effect. According to Clean Energy Canada’s estimate, jobs in the sector will increase 26-fold between 2020 and 2030, for a total of 184,000 positions.
Toronto’s George Brown College offers an electric vehicle technician program that’s one of the most comprehensive in the country. The program, which runs fully online and asynchronously, is great for someone coming into the field without any car or electricity expertise, but it’s also helpful for mechanics looking to transition from gas-powered cars. George Brown sets up students with 3D simulation software, as well as videos and animations, to learn everything from the basics of how electricity works right through to the functioning of autonomous vehicles.
For those who aren’t ready to jump fully into the field, one-off courses have also emerged. At Conestoga College in southwestern Ontario, the online Introduction to Electric Vehicles course is a primer that promises to explore “the pros and cons of EVs,” as well as dive into the comparative cost of owning an EV versus a car with an internal combustion engine.
Currently, the majority of postsecondary opportunities in the electric vehicle space require a student to possess a baseline level of automotive training. For instance, to apply for the exhaustive electric vehicle technology program at Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, northwest of Montreal, you’ll need to have a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) in one of several related fields, hold an attestation of college studies (ACS/AEC) in mechanical or electrical engineering or industrial electronics, or bring five years’ work experience. Taking one of those steps in advance might be worth it, though, since Saint-Jérôme’s EV curriculum is solid, including electrical diagrams, inspection, batteries and recharging, mechanical elements and quality control. And you can trust that the job market in this line of work is only going to accelerate.
Making sense of a deluge of data can help health-care systems, business owners and climate scientists
Most of us are now aware that pretty much everything we click on—a social media post, a shopping link, an online quiz—is collected and recorded somewhere. But who receives all those billions of points of data? The answer is data analysts: computer scientists who can extract useful insights and information from those clicks for companies, organizations and governments.
According to the employment site Indeed, tech careers continue to dominate the job market in terms of demand and compensation. The rapid emergence of artificial intelligence programs—including OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which was launched in November 2022—has both lit a new spark in the field and introduced a wave of uncertainty.
As in other industries, some jobs will be replaced by the AI systems that computer scientists create. Getting artificial intelligence to do some of the grunt work, however, just means more brainy tasks for humans, including drawing higher-level insights from data and making strategic decisions, according to Reid Kerr, a data science professor at Seneca Polytechnic. “Figuring out what questions to ask is more difficult than answering them,” Kerr says. “AI won’t replace humans in that regard in the foreseeable future.”
When it comes to programs, Seneca’s honours bachelor of data science and analytics, the first of its kind in Ontario when it launched four years ago, is among the best. During the four-year program, students learn the fundamentals of the field—advanced math, data management, writing code and developing algorithms—but also gain tools to present data visually and apply data to running (or working for) a business. Most classes take place in a hands-on lab, and between the third and fourth year, students spend 420 hours at a co-op placement. Seneca won’t go into specifics for confidentiality reasons, but co-op employers include big banks, major retailers and media companies, large consulting firms, and all levels of government.
For those looking for a shorter option, Red River College Polytechnic in Winnipeg offers a two-year data science and machine learning program, where students gain advanced math and technology skills, learn how to use data to develop code, and implement cutting-edge machine learning algorithms. They also participate in co-op placements. Data-curious students may want to explore one-off introductory courses in data science and big data analytics. Some programs also offer a taste of Python programming, a ubiquitous coding language.
Wherever grads in data analysis complete their degrees, they can go on to work for tech giants like Google and Facebook, as well as for banks and other financial institutions. Health-care systems benefit from data analysts, and data science is crucial to science itself—climate modelling is a particularly urgent example. In fact, it’s hard to think of a discipline that won’t need a team of data scientists in the years to come.
Personal Support Workers
A greying population means more money and more pathways to bring budding care workers into the field
It was a headline plucked from an end-of-days blockbuster, except in the summer of 2020 it was real life: government deploys military to long-term care homes to make up for lack of personal support workers. This special op played out across Ontario and Quebec, but reflected a national shortage that has only become worse in the three years since—partly due to COVID-era burnout rates, and partly the result of changing demographics. The number of Canadians over 85 is expected to triple in the next 23 years, which means the need for compassionate and competent care has never been greater.
For many reasons, the pandemic was challenging for PSWs—known as care aides in B.C. and orderlies in Quebec—but it was also a time to shine. PSWs work in long-term care facilities, hospitals, schools and private residences. “For so long, personal support workers have been the glue that holds communities and families together,” says Miranda Ferrier, CEO of the Canadian Support Workers Association. “During the pandemic, I think there was finally some recognition of this reality.” Ferrier, who earned her PSW degree from Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, is among many advocates calling for sector-wide reform, starting with regulation and standardized training. “Hairdressers are regulated but PSWs are not,” she points out. National or even provincial standards could bring about an official code of conduct, wage parity and legal protection. In 2022, the federal government announced that it would increase the minimum wage for PSWs to $25 per hour, although actual rates are set, and vary, by the provinces.
The Ontario government offers tuition-free, accelerated programs that have become a popular recruitment tool at colleges like Mohawk, Conestoga and Collège Boréal. This follows a $115-million investment from the provincial government to train up to 8,200 workers. The Health Career Access program in B.C., funded by the province’s health ministry, takes it a step further, covering tuition while paying students $21 per hour for training. Also, starting in April of 2023, all of Ontario’s 24 colleges now offer a new program that provides an online, asynchronous path to PSWs who want to practise as a registered practical nurse. It’s a great incentive, Ferrier says, although she notes that PSWs shouldn’t feel a need to move out of the field—it’s a calling in its own right.
“One of the really exciting things that we’re seeing is greater opportunity to specialize,” Ferrier adds, noting the perinatal support worker program at Mohawk and the autism program at Humber. Niagara College offers an additional certificate (part of the one-year PSW program) on caring for individuals with dementia and other cognitive diseases, while Conestoga College has developed an online course on dementia care in English, French, Mandarin and Tagalog. Says Ferrier, “There really is no limit to where this kind of training can take you.”
Early Childhood Education
To meet the skyrocketing demand for childcare workers, colleges have launched fast-tracked, fully funded degrees
ECE certification offers grads the opportunity to work not only in early learning programs but as a kindergarten assistant in both the private and public school systems and family resource programs such as EarlyON centres. Many roles in administration, curriculum development and resource consultation are open to ECEs, who have the option to earn a bachelor’s degree in child development at four-year programs through colleges like George Brown. “With so much expansion, there will be a lot of opportunity not just in our classrooms but in our planning departments,” says Vickerson. “ECEs will hopefully have a place in restructuring our systems.”