The outlook for the Canadian construction industry is strong for the coming decade but labour demand will intensify over the short term as retirements increase, according to BuildForce Canada’s recently released national labour market forecast.
BuildForce Canada released the 2020-2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward Feb. 10. The most significant growth is expected to take place between 2020 and 2021 and is anticipated to slow by the latter half of the decade.
“The highlight is that the country continues to be very busy,” said Bill Ferreira, the executive director of BuildForce Canada.
“The construction and maintenance industry right now are particularly stretched in Ontario and British Columbia, in part due to record levels of investment in both provinces in a variety of sectors — the utility sector, transportation and infrastructure, LNG, pipelines and governments also building a number of hospitals.”
“The labour force is getting older and we are starting to see the baby boomers retiring from the workforce and that is putting additional pressure on the construction and maintenance industry,” Ferreira said.
The report indicates employment in Canada’s construction and maintenance industry is anticipated to grow by 50,200 workers by 2029, and with 257,000 construction workers expected to retire over the same period, 307,000 workers will need to be recruited to keep up with demand.
“It’s more of a continuation of the demands that we started to pick up on last year,” Ferreira explained. “There is a stacking of projects going on in British Columbia, there is a stacking of projects going on in Ontario and those are obviously driving construction demand.”
Activity in Ontario is expected to peak in 2020 with a second peak anticipated in 2026, the report indicates. There are several ICI projects in all five regions in the province including light rail transit projects, nuclear refurbishment projects, modernization of government buildings and hospital construction.
“When you look at the Ottawa market, there are significant investments in modernizing public buildings such as Parliament Hill as well as a number of other government buildings and that is also happening in Toronto,” said Ferreira.
British Columbia remains the fastest growing market in the country in 2020 and 2021 with public transportation projects, pipelines and related infrastructure and work on the LNG Canada project.
“All of that is coming together over the course of the outlook, but in particular some of those major projects are going to take place between now and 2023/2024 and that’s going to drive up employment by about 15 per cent or about 10,000 workers are going to be needed by 2021 just on the non-residential side,” Ferreira noted. “That is stretching the labour force when you factor in retirements that is creating a significant recruitment requirement for the industry.”
The report recommends ongoing attention to recruitment and retention of employees.
“Mobility will be critical for the next little while, particularly to meet British Columbia’s labour force requirements, same in Ontario,” said Ferreira. “It may be necessary to pull workers from other provinces, other markets where conditions may have softened and look at recruiting from new groups, groups that may have been traditionally underrepresented in the industry. There are opportunities there for the industry to do more to try and recruit from those groups. This would certainly go a long way to trying to address some of the labour force challenges that we are anticipating the industry is going to be facing over the next 10 years.”
In Atlantic Canada, most of the major projects, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, are starting to wind down.
“What we are seeing is a bit of an adjustment back to the labour force as it was before some of those major projects, that glut of investment, that happened over the past five to seven years,” said Ferreira. “We’re seeing the labour force essentially readjust back to what it was before peak demand.”
In Nova Scotia, there are several ongoing projects that are going to sustain the labour force, particularly in the next couple of years.
“There are some additional investments in institutional buildings that is going to drive up employment over the next couple years and then we’re anticipating that it is going to be moderate growth and the same in New Brunswick,” said Ferreira. “We’re not seeing a lot of major projects. There is maintenance work that will be driving the non-residential sector.”
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