B.C. facing construction labour shortage
February 4, 2019
British Columbia will bear the brunt of Canada’s construction labour shortage over the next decade, according to BuildForce Canada.
In its 2018–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward forecast, BuidForce says B.C. is facing tight construction labour conditions, with approximately 22 per cent of the industry’s workforce expected to retire by 2027.
With the current number of anticipated project starts scheduled for 2019, non-residential employment requirements are expected to rise by 20 per cent between 2019 and 2021, which would outstrip the local supply of workers.
“Unprecedented short-term non-residential construction demand along with sustained levels of residential construction in the lower mainland will place significant strain on the province’s existing workforce,” stated the forecast. “To meet these demands, the non-residential sector alone will need to add 17,000 new workers between 2019 and 2021.”
In the Lower Mainland, it will be non-residential construction projects related to infrastructure or transportation as well as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project that will keep the industry busy from 2019 to 2023.
Some of the shortage could be taken up this year by a slowing in residential construction—forecast to decline across the province, according to a separate report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Housing starts, however, are expected to improve by 2020.
A number of planned resource projects, including the Trans Mountain Pipeline, could also be delayed due to political and First Nation challenges.
B.C. is already struggling with recruitment challenges and that is expected to worsen with the start of these new major projects, BuildForce said. The current timing of planned mining, pipeline, transportation, infrastructure, and liquefied natural gas investments should result in the largest swell in engineering construction requirements in recent history.
“There is a high potential for recruiting challenges for some selected trades. The growing rate of retirements and the less than adequate supply of locally available replacement workers will mean the industry will, with increasing regularity, be required to recruit workers from outside the province’s construction sector or outside the industry,” according to the BuildForce forecast.