On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced a $224M investment in the province’s stock of skilled trades training centres -- a move that’s all too timely amid the already staggering shortfall of skilled labourers.

More specifically, a new Skills Development Fund (SDF) Capital Stream will soon be made available to unions, Indigenous centres, and industry associations, and will allow such entities to establish new centres, expand existing facilities, and augment new and existing centres with state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Applications for the fund will open on June 30.

“This new program will help boost the province’s training infrastructure, providing more people opportunities to learn new skills and advance their careers into good-paying, in-demand jobs,” said Premier Doug Ford in a news release earlier today. “We’re taking the steps needed to create a bigger pipeline of talent to ensure we continue to have the best workforce in the world to keep attracting investments and to build Ontario.”

The release also sheds some light on the extent of the labour deficit, noting that roughly 300,000 jobs go unfilled on a daily basis in Ontario, “costing the province billions in lost productivity.”

As a product of the new capital stream, the improved training centres are projected to ensure over one million workers will get the training that they need.

“Ontario is facing the largest labour shortage in a generation, and our government is on a mission to help workers train for the well-paying jobs we know are available,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development. “We will continue to invest in innovative training programs and ground-breaking infrastructure to prepare jobseekers in every corner of our province for the future of work.”

As well, the provincial government will invest $535K through the SDF initiative, and those funds will be used to expand the apprenticeship opportunities available to future boilermakers in Northern Ontario and across the province.

The first project will cater to 1,200 high school students and will give them “hands-on experience with welding, cutting, and rigging work and the opportunity to pursue apprenticeships in the trade.” It will have an emphasis on women, Indigenous people, and students in rural Northern Ontario.

The second program will provide lodging, travel, and food for 150 new job seekers from around the province as they prepare to become boilermaker apprentices. Coursework will cover rigging, working at heights, and construction safety.

Both programs will be led by the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 128, and will jointly provide 1,350 participants with the opportunity to explore rewarding careers as boilermakers, which can pay up to $38 an hour.

READ: Canada Is Facing A Severe Construction Labour Shortage, And It’s Poised To Get Worse

These announcements come on the heels of a new report from CIBC Economics, which digs into the extent of Canada’s construction labour shortfall.

The average number of workers per unit under construction has fallen from six to four over the past decade, it says -- a reality that puts achieving ambitious housing targets at great risk.

“Ask any developer about supply issues and the availability of labour usually tops the list,” writes Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist at CIBC in Tuesday's report. “And there is no shortage of statistical evidence of that shortage. With no less than 80,000 vacancies in the industry, the vacancy rate is at a record high and a full percentage point above the national average.”

In light of those realities, Tal calls on all levels of government to step up recruitment strategies. In particular, he laments the “desperate need” for skilled trade workers.

“We have to find ways to build on the current positive trend seen amongst women in skilled trades, and we have to reverse the negative trend seen in apprenticeships, while using the tax system as a tool. As an example, the recently introduced tax refund program to skilled trades in Nova Scotia is a step in the right direction,” he says.

“The recent inclusion of skilled trades occupations in the express entry program is a welcome development, but much more needs to be done. This includes making changes to the immigration points system in order to increase the contribution of new immigrants to easing the severe shortage in construction labour in Canada.”