Mobile workforce, training, key to meeting construction labour needs in B.C.

The demand for workers in B.C.’s construction industry will fluctuate over the next decade, depending on the region and sector. The projected increase in industrial and engineering investment will drive construction markets across the outlook scenario and the overall trend is toward near-record levels of employment. A new forecast of labour supply and demand has just been released by the Construction Sector Council (CSC), and industry stakeholders are already making use of it to plan ahead.

“The keys to managing the industry’s needs are mobility and flexibility of the workforce, and skilled-worker training,” says Clyde Scollan, president of the Construction Labour Relations Association of BC. “As conditions shift, the increased activity will create distinct opportunities and challenges for B.C.’s construction industry.”

The new report, Construction Looking Forward, 2012 to 2020 Key Highlights for British Columbia, says non-residential work is unevenly distributed across regions, with the mining, pipeline, industrial and utility projects in the north dominating gains for the next few years, while commercial, institutional and civil work is weaker in the south.

“Industry will need to meet labour demand requirements through worker mobility, including regional moves by workers within the province – south to north and potentially workers from outside our province or country to meet peak demands,” added Scollan.  “Both short- and long-term worker training will have to be a focus to help meet the labour demand on the industrial and engineering projects in remote areas.”

For the residential sector, steady gains in employment are projected across the outlook scenario between 2012 and 2020.

“There is renewed growth toward the end of this decade, driven by stronger population growth, increased household formation and new housing starts,” says MJ Whitemarsh, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of B.C. “Industry must continue efforts to ensure the existing workforce and new entrants have the skills to keep our industry productive.”

The report estimates that the province’s construction labour force requirements will rise by 11,000 positions from 2012 to 2020 due to increased construction activity, plus a further 33,200 workers are expected to retire.  Industry will need to recruit more than 44,000 workers over the next decade to meet industry demand requirements. Sustained recruiting efforts that target a variety of sources, including youth, Aboriginal people, women, other industries and immigrants will continue to be a priority for the industry.

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