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BuildForce predicts Manitoba's long run of growth to slow in coming years

DCN-JOC News Services
BuildForce predicts Manitoba's long run of growth to slow in coming years

WINNIPEG, MAN. – After 20 years of solid growth, Manitoba is in store for a moderate start to the coming decade, a new labour market forecast from BuildForce Canada shows.

BuildForce’s 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report attributed that predicted slowdown to the winding down of activity on major projects combined with lower levels of road, highway, and bridge work, and lower levels of new-housing construction. BuildForce expects construction employment to be moderately lower between 2020 and 2024 — with some recovery later in the decade.

The organization projects that construction employment will decline by close to 4,000 workers (- 10 per cent) over the next five years to 2024. A modest recovery of 1,100 workers is expected to follow to 2029. In total, construction employment declines by close to 2,900 over the scenario period.

“Since 2009, the Manitoba construction industry has grown by more than 10,000 new workers, driven by stronger demand for residential construction, major hydro-related projects, infrastructure investments, and immigration-driven population growth,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “That accounted for a 26% increase over the period. The modest decline over the next 10 years should be seen in that context.”

In the residential sector, employment related to the construction of new homes is expected to decline through 2026, reducing the workforce by 1,000 workers over the coming decade. However, moderate growth in renovation and maintenance work should add nearly 800 workers. That would see overall residential employment down by a modest 1 per cent over the scenario period.

Non-residential employment is expected to moderate over the next two years following the end of several major construction projects, including Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask hydroelectric dam, the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline expansion, Winnipeg’s Southwest Rapid Transitway, J.R. Simplot Co.’s potato processing plant, the ARTIS 40-storey development, and several road and highway projects. Non-residential employment is forecasted to decline by 3,200 workers through to 2022 as these projects are completed.

Over the remainder of the scenario period, employment requirements are expected to be driven by moderate gains in the construction of industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) buildings and maintenance work. BuildForce expects Engineering construction to cycle downward between 2021 and 2024, as several projects wind down before stabilizing over the latter part of the scenario period.

Modest gains in ICI building construction, infrastructure projects, and projected growth in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors are expected to drive employment in the non-residential sector between 2025 and 2029.

About 8,100 workers are projected to retire from the construction labour force by 2029. Based on historical trends, Manitoba’s construction industry is expected to draw an estimated 7,900 first-time new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population over the next decade.

“Manitoba may almost be able to counterbalance retirements, taking advantage of a population that skews younger than other provinces,” said Ferreira. “But the population continues to age overall. The industry has an excellent opportunity right now to continue outreach, training, and recruitment efforts to ensure that labour market needs continue to be met through to 2029 and beyond.”

BuildForce emphasized that the development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. More than 9,200 apprentices registered in the 16 largest construction trade programs in Manitoba between 2013 and 2019, with 4,330 completions reported during this period. Based on current apprenticeship registration and completion trends, several trades may be at risk of not keeping pace with retirement levels that could lead to a potential undersupply of certified journeypersons in some trades by 2029. Boilermakers, industrial electricians, and welders may be at higher risk. An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development will remain necessary to avoid potential future skills shortages in the industry.

BuildForce noted that a major key to preparing the future sustainable workforce will be significant recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented on construction sites, including women, Indigenous people, and new Canadians.

In 2019, approximately 5,700 women were employed in Manitoba’s construction industry, of which 23 per cent worked directly on construction projects. Of the 38,200 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up only 3.4 per cent. Manitoba has done well in attracting Indigenous people into the construction industry. Approximately 16 per cent of the province’s construction labour force is made up of Indigenous people, of which about 81 per cent work directly on construction projects. Increasing the participation rate of both these groups would go a long way to help the industry address its future labour force needs.

Manitoba’s construction workforce is made up of approximately 15 per cent new Canadians. Over the coming decade, the province is expected to welcome an average of 15,550 newcomers every year, making the immigrant population an important future source of potential workers for the province’s construction and maintenance industry.

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