By Anthony Capkun
March 26, 2013 – A just-released forecast of labour supply and demand says construction will need to recruit more than 250,000 workers—including the traditional number of new entrants to the workforce—to meet building needs from now until 2021.
According to “Construction Looking Forward: National Summary, 2013-2021”, published by the Construction Sector Council (CSC), a large portion of this need is to replace retiring workers.
“But these numbers conceal important ups and downs happening in different construction sectors and in different regions of the country,” said Rosemary Sparks, CSC executive director, stressing “the increased importance of labour market planning”.
The report indicates that institutional and commercial building provide steady year-by-year growth in most provinces, but big resource projects—including electrical generation and transmission, mining, and oil & gas pipelines—create more volatility in industrial and utility construction.
“We must be able to supply the needed skills when and where required,” continued Sparks. “This includes having access to a mobile workforce at times. It also means working to retain experienced workers and training the next generation. These challenges will continue to focus attention on training, labour mobility and immigration.”
In terms of regional differences, the report says British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario are moving into a new expansion that will raise employment by 2021. Manitoba and Prince Edward Island expand, but at a slower pace, across the scenario period. In all of these provinces, new jobs are being added on top of all-time record-high employment.
Key resource projects have been ramping up employment in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland & Labrador, which will reach a peak over the next two years, but still settle well above pre-2009 industry norms.
Though Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have limited year-to-year changes in total construction employment, they may nonetheless face labour challenges that will require recruitment from outside the industry.
The forecast says residential construction employment is largely unchanged from 2013 to 2021. Limited population growth from 2013 to 2021 keeps growth in new home building below previous levels. There are important variations across the provinces. Early on, for example, housing in Ontario is expected to decline, while this will not be a factor in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Each year, CSC releases 9-Year labour forecast scenarios following consultations with industry stakeholders, which include owners, contractors and labour groups, as well as governments and educational institutions. Forecast scenario data is also available at www.constructionforecasts.ca.