Bringing NAHB Courses to Canada and Beyond

by Vince Butler, GMR, GMB, CAPS

NAHB courses are not just for home builders and remodelers here in the United States. I have had the pleasure of teaching NAHB Education classes in Canada since 2011. I have visited five provinces, many of them multiple times, and have spoken with dozens of Canadian builders about their businesses, the market and challenges they face every day.

The most striking observation is the overwhelming similarity between our own businesses and that of our friends to the north.

A remodeler is called a renovator in Canada. Aside from that, they deal with exactly the same struggles: finding clients, overwhelming product choices, permits, inspections and trade partner shortages.

Most importantly for me when I was first asked to teach there, is that due to the large volume of trade with the U.S. building market, all materials and specifications remain in “feet and inches” in an otherwise metric country.

The trade association is also different from ours. In Canada, the national association focuses primarily on legislative issues. The provincial associations deal more with member services, local regulatory issues, marketing through home shows, expos and tours, and possibly, providing education.  A few have very well-developed educational programs with certifications.

My first trip to Canada was hosted by the Nova Scotia Home Builders Association in Halifax.  The maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, along with Newfoundland & Labrador, make up Atlantic Canada. This area has the oldest median age in Canada.  It’s no surprise then that the now revised Certified-Aging-in-Place (CAPS) course was the program of most interest.

Canadian demographics are very similar in terms of baby boomers, homeownership rates and aging-related challenges. Of course, health insurance is not one of those. Its national healthcare program provides substantial benefits designed to promote independence and recovery at home, including occupational therapy.

The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation has been proactive in promoting aging-in-place and includes several resources online to educate home owners.  Financing options are similar to the US with equity, refinance and reverse mortgages available.

So far, the CAPS classes taught in Canada have used the U.S.-based curriculum. I researched and added some Canada-specific statistics, but the students have to learn the U.S. data to pass the same test used throughout the program.

NAHB hopes to create a Canadian version with the latest revisions to the CAPS courses, which should really increase demand over the border.  The good news is that 95% of the content is relevant and accurate in both countries.

In addition to CAPS, there is demand for business and practical courses. Business management, estimating, and business accounting and job costing courses have all been well received. I have also delivered talks at trade shows in Canada on a few occasions and found the interest and questions very similar to any U.S. audience. Attendance at the International Builders’ Show is quite common for the builders and renovators I met and most take advantage of education there as well.

Vince Butler, GMR, GMB, CAPS, is an NAHB Education instructor who teaches classes across the U.S. and Canada. He was the 2006 NAHB Remodelers Council Chairman, the 2008 NAHB Membership Committee Chairman, was the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) Instructor of the Year in 2012 and was the 2014 NAHB Education Committee Chairman.

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