320,000 construction workers needed in next decade

Canada’s construction industry will need about 320,000 workers over the next nine years to meet demand for new construction and to replace retirements and mortalities.

The finding, from the Construction Sector Council’s just-released national forecast of labour supply and demand from 2011-2019, says Canada’s slowing population growth combined with its rising demand for large natural resource construction projects is challenging the industry to find the required number of skilled workers.

But it’s a challenge industry leaders are prepared for. “We are making an all-out effort to recruit from non-traditional labour sources such as youth, women, Aboriginal people, workers from other industries and foreign workers,” says George Gritziotis, executive director, Construction Sector Council (CSC). “We’re working on government and industry programs that focus on recruitment, apprenticeship and training, certification, pan-Canadian standards and foreign credential recognition.”

The forecast estimates that half of the industry’s total labour needs will be met with 163,000 first-time new entrants to the workforce, leaving a requirement of 157,000 workers — an average of about 15,000 workers per year over the 2011-2019 period.

Demographic patterns are slowing growth by limiting the available workforce and restricting housing starts. At the same time, government and industry are planning large resource projects in response to domestic needs and international demands.

Industry leaders are also looking to manage labour supply and demand, where possible, through interprovincial mobility.

“A ripple effect will be created across all the provinces as major projects from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia first draw in and then release large numbers of key trades,” explains Gritziotis. “For example, one of the most likely opportunities to balance markets comes late in the forecast, when the announced utility project in the Greater Toronto Area and major projects in Alberta will likely draw in workers as major projects end in other provinces.”

The forecast for most provinces includes declining employment in residential construction, with steady but limited growth in renovations and repairs.

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