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Construction industry needs workers

Canada’s construction industry is short about 80,000 workers

Construction industry worker shortages are likely to be here for some time, predicts an industry representative.

Red Deer Construction Association executive director Gary Gies said the difficulties finding enough people to fill construction jobs is not a central Alberta, an Alberta or even a Canadian problem.

“It’s not just a national thing. It’s a global thing. You’re even seeing this in Europe. And I don’t think it’s just hitting one industry,” said Gies on Tuesday.

“It’s definitely an issue here locally and I don’t imagine it’s going to get any better, this year anyways. But we’ll see going into next year.”

CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal recently estimated that Canada’s construction industry had around 80,000 unfilled jobs.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation cited labour shortages as one of the factors leading to a projected housing shortage of 3.5 million homes by 2030. Soaring building costs, rising interest rates and planning issues are also playing a role.

Gies believes the pandemic played a role in shrinking the available workforce. As work dried up during the pandemic, many older workers took the opportunity to fast forward retirement plans.

“There just isn’t enough back-fill at this point in time,” he said, adding skilled trades are particularly in short supply.

Gies said employers are trying to get the word out that they have positions available any way they can, through traditional avenues and social media.

However, it remains difficult finding the person with exactly the right skill set for many jobs. “The chance of getting somebody who can step in and do the work is a challenge.

“A lot of companies are going the route of getting by with what they have. That’s causing some of its own problems as well.

“People are working a little bit longer hours. People are stretched a little bit more.”

Gies said he knows that some companies have opted not to bid on projects they might have if they had the necessary workforce.

“In turn, that has a domino effect,” he said, adding projects may be sidelined or delayed. Fewer bidders also tends to mean higher prices as well.

A recent industry survey by construction management software company Procore found almost 30 per cent of respondents said they have been unable to take on more projects in the past three to six months due to labour shortages.

Not all of the issues can be traced back to lack of employees. Continuing supply chain issues, inflation, interest rates and many other factors all have an impact in the complicated industry.

Red Deer Construction Association along with seven other similar associations around the province have responded by joining forces to promote the Construction New Talent Grant Program.

Funded by the province, the program supports work-integrated learning placements by providing subsidies up to 50 per cent of wages to a maximum of $5,000 for temporary work experience placements at least three weeks long. A wide variety of jobs are eligible, from engineers and technologists to finance and IT.

This spring, the Alberta government announced $15 million over three years to open up 1,000 more apprenticeship spaces. some of which will be at Red Deer Polytechnic, where 3,500 apprentices in 16 programs trained this year.

However, with an estimated one-fifth of the construction labour force expected to retire within the next decade, shortages are likely to remain without a significant influx in trained newcomers.

— With files from The Canadian Press


Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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