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Woodbridge drywall school expands with building boom

Facing a boom in business, thanks to the boom in building in the Vaughan area, the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario is expanding its Woodbridge school.

Opened last year, the 5,000-square-metre Interior Finishing Systems Training Centre, North America’s largest drywall training facility, is already bursting at the seams. To ease the pressure, the association has a 2,300-square-metre expansion in the works.

“Right now, we have contractors screaming for apprentices and we can’t deliver them,” says Hugh Laird, the association’s executive director. “The demand for skilled tradesmen is there, particularly in the Vaughan area because, as you know, it’s exploding.”

The association is receiving no money from Queen’s Park, forcing the estimated $4-million cost onto its membership. In its May collective agreement, the association negotiated a mechanism to pay for the project.

“The employer has to pay an extra 25 cents an hour for every employee to pay for this building,” Laird said this week. “That makes us less competitive against our non-unionized counterparts.

“We’re not happy with that at all. I’ve talked to this government and the previous government saying: ‘You know, this is not fair. We’re taxpayers and we’re in competition with the colleges, in some respects, and yet you will build the college a facility that they need and we have to go and fund it ourselves.'”

More than just drywall, the facility is used to train asbestos and mould abatement workers, and exterior stucco specialists, increasing the pressure to expand.

“The last seven years in a row, we’ve had record employment,” he said. “We don’t have a crystal ball, but the next 5-7 years looks great.

“There’s a huge shortage and we’ve been playing catch-up for years.”

Laird said the addition should be completed in about a year if the foundation is laid before the cold weather sets in. He added that graduates would help in construction.

“It’ll be one of our contractors doing our portion of the work,” he said. “Some of these kids will be working on it, absolutely.”

Laird estimated that 30 percent of the students that make their way through the various programs at the training centre come from Vaughan.

Vaughan Today 
Friday, August 31, 2007 
Page: 7 
Section: Vaughan Business 
Byline: Philip Alves