infrastructure

B.C. demand for skilled labour high

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The latest forecast from BuildForce Canada reveals construction demands will remain exceptionally high for the next couple of years and peak in the latter half of 2021 based on the number of currently tracked projects in B.C.

The province’s construction industry will be short 11,700 workers over the next two years and some 23,000 workers short by 2029.

“Unemployment in the B.C. construction industry remains at historically low levels, below 4 per cent,” says Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada. “While the industry will need to focus on long-term recruitment and skills development strategies, worker mobility will be critical to meeting the province’s anticipated construction needs, particularly over the short term.”

B.C.’s construction and maintenance industry will be driven primarily by non-residential projects over the next decade. The residential sector will also remain strong, and moderate declines in new housing construction will be more than offset by growing renovation and maintenance demands.

Non-residential construction demand in B.C. is driven by several major projects, including: Site C, LNG Canada export terminal, TC Energy Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. In the Lower Mainland, demand is driven by key infrastructure projects including: the Pattullo Bridge Replacement, SkyTrain expansion in Surrey and along Broadway, ongoing expansion of Vancouver International Airport (YVR), redevelopment of St. Paul’s Hospital, and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority container expansion program.

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) is calling on the provincial and federal governments to help address the ongoing shortage of skilled labour in British Columbia and the Lower Mainland.

Specifically, VRCA is asking that Victoria and Ottawa work with the construction industry to improve the mobility of workers within and between provinces, as well as reduce the hurdles faced by skilled trades wishing to immigrate to Canada and work in B.C.

“B.C.’s construction industry is facing a perfect storm,” said Fiona Famulak, VRCA president. “The construction industry’s unemployment rate is at historically low levels while demand for construction services continues to increase to new highs.”

In response to project demand, employment in B.C.’s construction industry is forecast to grow by 16,600 workers by 2029. In the same period, the industry is expected to lose 44,200 workers to retirement, which will be offset somewhat by the 37,800 first-time local new entrants aged 30 years and younger anticipated to enter the province’s construction workforce. This still leaves the industry with a shortfall of some 23,000 workers to meet the forecast demand for construction labour.

The next decade will also be challenging for the Lower Mainland’s construction industry. During this period, the industry is expected to lose 25,300 workers to retirement, which will be offset somewhat by the 22,900 new entrants anticipated to join the local construction workforce. This still leaves the Lower Mainland 17,400 workers short by 2029.

The Lower Mainland’s near-term outlook is particularly challenging. With numerous overlapping infrastructure projects underway or about to break ground, the industrial, commercial and institutional construction industry will need at least 7,500 additional workers by late 2021 to meet demand.

“The forecast confirms again that British Columbia and the Lower Mainland need both long- and short-term strategies to address the skilled labour shortage,” said Famulak. “We need continued investment in the training and development of skilled trades people to build our future workforce. At the same time, there is an immediate need for skilled trades workers that cannot be satisfied simply by increasing training and apprenticeships.”

The 2020-2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward highlights reports for each province are available on the BuildForce Canada website.

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