OTTAWA — British Columbia and Ontario are expected to lead the nation in construction labour demand according to a national forecast of future employment in the sector just released by BuildForce Canada, with B.C. especially strong over the next decade but Ontario’s continuing robustness threatened by recruiting challenges.
While employment in the Canadian construction industry will be little changed over the next decade, adding approximately 44,100 workers, or rising a mere four per cent, when coupled with the anticipated retirement of more than 261,000 workers, the country’s construction and maintenance industry will need to recruit an additional 300,200 workers by 2028, according to BuildForce Canada’s 2019–2028 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward national report.
Construction employment in Canada will strengthen modestly through 2020, as demands driven by major energy, public transportation, and other infrastructure projects rise to a near-term peak, offsetting a continued softening in housing starts, according to a release issued Jan. 31. For the first time since 2009, employment demand is projected to ebb after 2021, once peak project requirements are met. Slower population growth limits construction expansion nationally over the latter half of the 2019–2028 scenario period, although a period of moderate growth is expected to follow in most provinces to 2028.
British Columbia’s growth will be propelled by the start of a liquefied natural gas terminal, and transportation and infrastructure construction, the release indicated.
Ontario, meanwhile, will “grapple with record levels of construction project activity and recruiting challenges,” said Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada.
However, labour demands are projected to plateau or recede in most other provinces.
Manitoba and most Atlantic provinces, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, are likely to see demands weaken and remain at lower levels of employment across the decade, most notably in Newfoundland and Labrador as several projects there end. Alberta and Saskatchewan are expected to see modest declines, but recover over the longer term due to renewed increasing demand for housing and the proposed starts of new projects. At the same time, demands in Quebec are sustained at recent peak levels by major project requirements.
Labour demands in the non-residential sector are projected to outstrip demands in the residential sector over the next 10 years, the release noted.
At the end of the decade, non-residential employment is expected to increase by 35,700 jobs – an overall increase of six per cent, with gains in maintenance, and industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) building construction offset by modest declines in engineering construction.
Industry retirements will be an important national labour story over the coming decade, said BuildForce. Canada’s construction industry will be challenged by the retirement of more than 261,000 workers – 22 per cent of the current labour force. Based on historical trends, Canada’s construction industry is expected to draw in an estimated 221,300 new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population.
An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development, with a special focus on women and Indigenous Canadians, will be necessary to ensure there are sufficient numbers of qualified tradespeople to sustain a skilled labour force over the long term, said the release.
“Maintaining capacity to meet construction labour force needs will require focused efforts on recruiting, training and retaining young workers, even under a slower-growth scenario,” says Ferreira. “Even if the full potential of interprovincial mobility is realized, industry will likely still need to expand recruiting efforts for new workers from local sources of labour, from other industries, and from new immigrants to meet the industry’s long-term needs.”