Alberta’s construction industry is embarking on a quest to better understand innovation trends in construction and prepare its workforce accordingly.
The Alberta Construction Association (ACA) and its partners in government and industry have started a consultative process to develop a strategy to help upskill the construction workforce.
The review includes BuildForce Canada, Building Trades of Alberta, Christian Labour Association of Canada, BILD Alberta Association, and the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association. It will also receive support from the Ministry of Labour.
ACA President Ken Gibson explained that the association has begun by conducting a literature review of studies and thought pieces on the topic of the future of construction.
The association identified several major areas of innovation that could require upskilling for workers. These areas included advanced manufacturing techniques, smart equipment, lean construction practices, data management and analysis, and cyber security.
“All these changes could happen fairly quickly and the skill sets of the future workforces could be quite different,” said Gibson. “That prompted us to undertake this project in partnership with the Ministry of Labour.”
Gibson explained that the ACA and its partner associations will produce an initial strategy to prepare for the future of construction labour.
“What we are learning is that there is a lack of published data specific to Canada, Western Canada and Alberta,” said Gibson. “We have to augment the published work and existing strategies by reaching out into our collective memberships, talk to industry leaders. Once that interview work is done, our consultant will be developing an interim strategy. Steering committee groups will disseminate it, get industry reaction and then develop it into a finished product hopefully by the end of the year.”
The team also aims to produce a series of recommendations in a planning document for industry and government.
“It has been an interesting journey so far learning how little we know,” he said. “If we move the yardstick at all, this is still positive. We are at the very early stages of understanding this important topic.”
In a press release, other construction and labour organizations echoed Gibson, highlighting the need to better understand emerging technology.
“Technology is disrupting every area of the economy,” said Ronald Glen, CEO of the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association. “Without a strategy to provide workers with the skills to utilize new technology, Alberta employers will not be able to innovate and invest in those technologies. That will leave the local industry at risk of falling behind international competitors who are becoming more efficient.”
Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada, stated that the project will help the industry gain a better understanding of the challenges involved in upskilling the current provincial construction labour force and provide the industry with the roadmap.
“The workforce of the future will need an ever-changing skill set to meet the needs of industry,” said Terry Parker, executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta. “Our affiliates are constantly increasing their training programs so that members are the most efficient and cost productive option in the construction workforce. The Building Trades of Alberta is proud to be part of this process to review the impacts of technological changes.”
Gibson said he expected the review to wrap up later this year.