Closing the Gap – Green Skills Training for Trades
Labor Market Research shows that the Ontario construction labor market will expand in 2015 to 2019, with the strongest gains in large commercial projects. The Canadian green building market is also poised to see strong growth over the next three years, with surveyed Canadian firms expecting to grow their green practices from one third in 2014 to one half by 2017 (McGraw Hill 2014). In Ontario, with such anticipated growth in construction activity, a corresponding demand and adoption of green work practices will quickly become a standard requirement.
Building certifications and rating systems, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), are driving the construction sector to adapt greener techniques in every stage of design and construction, from selecting building location to onsite practices of construction crews. Truly successful energy-efficient construction requires all workers on a project to be familiar with whole building systems approaches in a collaborative process.
Until recently, the majority of green education focused on design professionals and building owners but has not been useful for the people who actually build, renovate, and maintain buildings. The ‘green gap’ is recognized as missing “foundational knowledge that is necessary for all individuals involved in constructing today’s buildings. It equips participants with the right information they need to perform their best, not just for building green projects, but for all projects to deliver best practices and to raise the bar for further innovation and efficiencies throughout the industry” says Shawn Vanderheyden, Director of Sustainability at PCL Constructors Canada Inc. For specialty trade occupations such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and HVAC mechanics, it is apparent that in‐depth training is needed to become familiar with new green technologies and techniques.
One program that addresses this gap is the Green Professionals Building Skills Training (GPRO) program – created by the trades for the trades, this certificate program is aimed at contractors and subcontractors, building construction trades, building operators and managers who are seeking a simple and cost effective way to diversify their skills. Recognized internationally by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and its affiliates, GPRO is the only existing credential eligible to earn LEED credits through the inclusion of building trades professionals on registered LEED projects. As green buildings become more common, a GPRO certificate will prepare workers for jobs more effectively than their untrained counterparts.
Since the initial GPRO rollout in the US in 2010, more than 5,000 participants have taken the workshops. Introduced in Ontario this year by the Canada Green Building Council-Greater Toronto Chapter (CaGBC-GTC), the Canadian GPRO Delivery Partner authorized to sublicense to individual tradespersons, companies, unions and other organizations, GPRO has sparked a lot of interest. GPRO training is available for the six different modules: Fundamentals, Mechanical/HVACR, Plumbing, Electrical Systems, Operations and Maintenance, and Construction Management. Courses are scheduled starting in December 2014. For more information, please visit http://gprocanada.org/.
Written By: Hazel Farley, Canada Green Building Council – Greater Toronto Chapter