Alberta could face skilled labour shortage despite energy sector layoffs

Alberta could face a shortage of skilled labour despite layoffs in the oilpatch unless companies and governments keep training new workers, an industry group warns.

EDMONTON — Alberta could face a shortage of skilled labour despite layoffs in the oilpatch unless companies and governments keep training new workers, an industry group warns.

BuildForce Canada is projecting a loss of 31,000 construction jobs due to the downturn in the oilsands over the next four years, with many of those people heading to other provinces.

“A skills vacuum is a real risk with the exodus of interprovincial workers within and outside the resource industry,” Rosemary Sparks, the group’s executive director, said Monday.

The effects of the sputtering energy sector are expected to ripple out to residential and non-residential construction, she said.

BuildForce Canada is forecasting the construction sector in Alberta will not bounce back until 2020.

The “skills gap” will be exacerbated by the retirement of thousands of baby boomers by the end of the decade, Sparks said.

Alberta has been through such boom-and-bust cycles before, but factoring in a large number of retiring workers at the same time will make dealing with the downturn more complex.

“That’s why it’s crucial for industry to stay focused on recruiting young people and attracting and keeping those skilled trades that are, or will be, in the most demand.

“We can’t wait for that cycle to turn around to start recruiting workers to replace the retiring workers. We have to make sure that we continue to replenish the workforce.”

Sparks said it takes four to five years to train a tradesperson through an apprenticeship program.

Some of the trades include carpenters, electricians, boilermakers, welders, pipefitters and heavy-equipment operators.

Sparks said companies will have to look at ways to keep skilled tradespeople on the job, such as doing maintenance work on major projects.

Governments and companies also to need maintain apprenticeship training programs.

“There is a role for employers and for governments to make sure we continue to have that system.”

Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador could also lose skilled workers due to the energy industry slump and retirements.

Skilled tradespeople are expected to seek work in provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba that have more construction projects on the drawing board, Sparks said.

ATB Financial, Alberta’s Crown-owned bank, is forecasting the first half of 2016 to be the roughest yet in the current economic downturn, with unemployment projected to reach up to eight per cent. Last January, the unemployment rate in Alberta was 4.7 per cent.

ATB is projecting more people could leave Alberta this year than move in, a migration pattern that hasn’t happened since 2010.

BuildForce Canada calls itself a national industry-led organization representing all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. It receives some funding from the federal government.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People board and leave at the Century Park light-rail transit station in Edmonton on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

Alberta Health Services declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Revera Aspen Ridge on Feb. 1. (Photo by Advocate staff)
Two COVID deaths linked to Revera seniors residence in Red Deer

35 active COVID cases at seniors residence

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Preliminary data shows Alberta’s suicide rate declined in 2020 — but some mental health critics say it’s too early to draw any conclusions since more dire pandemic impacts are only now being felt. (metrocreative stock)
Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020

But some experts say it’s too early to credit the pandemic

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services.  File photo by Advocate staff
Opinion: UCP government reneging on Red Deer hospital funding

Another year, another Alberta budget and another blow to central Albertans. Budget… Continue reading

Seattle Storm guards Sue Bird, right, and Jordin Canada pose for photos Wednesday, March 3, 2021, on the roof of the Space Needle in Seattle after they raised a flag with the team's new logo on it. Bird re-signed with the Storm earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Lille players celebrate after Jonathan David scored his side's second goal during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Marseille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky, right, passes the ball in front of Argentina forward Sole Jaimes (9) during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Alphonso Davies and Shelina Zadorsky have been named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Phelan M. Ebenhack
Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Manchester United's Fred, left, and Crystal Palace's Jordan Ayew challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park stadium in London, England, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Mike Hewitt/Pool via AP)
Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The undermanned Toronto Raptors, down five players and six members of their coaching staff due to health and safety protocols, are scheduled to host the Detroit Pistons in their first action since last Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carlos Osorio
Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Canada's Ghislaine Landry, left, runs past France players during the Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, Friday, July 20, 2018. The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, grounded last year by the pandemic, will return for the women in May. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Chiu
World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

Most Read