Labour shortage looms as construction booms
September 25, 2017
Canada’s residential construction boom—with housing starts above a 200,000-unit pace this year—has led to a shortage of skilled construction workers, and the pain is being felt mostly in British Columbia.
In a 2016 study, the BC Construction Association (BCAA) warned that a shortage of workers was threatening the province’s $8.1 billion construction sector.
The report found that two-thirds of workers in skilled trades are now over the age of 45 and there are not enough new people entering the field.
“These demographic trends and a projected increase in construction activity are forecast to create a 15,000 worker shortfall,” noted BCCA President Manley McLachlan.
This year the labour shortage has become acute in some areas of B.C. and, experts say, is being felt across Canada.
Vancouver Island is a good example. According to the Vancouver Island Construction Association, there were $1.06 billion in building permits issued through the first half of this year on the Island, a 19 per cent jump from the first six months of last year.
Finding enough workers “has been a challenge,” Rory Kulmala, chief executive of the Vancouver Island Construction Association told the Victoria Times Colonist.
Kulmala said the problem is there are simply not enough young people going into the trades. Meanwhile, construction crews are working full tilt on the Island, and every year older workers are retiring.
“It stresses out the industry. There are discussions being had about bringing in trades from other places in Canada, but this is a problem across the country,” Kulmala said. “It’s not as easy as saying: ‘Hey, come to Victoria.’” The BCCA survey found that 94 per cent of B.C. construction companies are planning to hire this year and that the average annual salary for a B.C. construction worker is $56,170.