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Construction in Canada enters 2nd decade of strong growth

Construction employment will remain at all-time record high levels in Canada for the next decade or so.

That is the conclusion of the Construction Sector Council (CSC) in their national summary report, Construction Looking Forward, 2012–2020 Key Highlights.

In terms of job numbers, Canada will need an estimated 319,000 new construction workers from 2012 to 2020. 

There are two factors driving this: increased construction demand and retirement of existing workers.

To meet the demand from increased construction activity, it is estimated that the national construction labour force will rise by 100,000 workers in this period. Meanwhile, an estimated 219,000 workers (20 percent of the current construction workforce) are expected to retire. 

Much of the expansion will be driven by major projects – large industrial and engineering projects – in non-residential construction. With the exception of a few provinces, residential construction markets are expected to continue to recover at a slower pace compared to previous peak levels.

The increase in resource projects – such as mining, oil and gas, pipelines, electrical generation and transmission – will drive demand for skilled workers in these fields.

“Many of these projects are in remote, northern locations but the scale of this work generates significant demand requirements across many provinces,” says CSC Labour Co-chair Robert Blakely, Director of Canadian Affairs for the Building and Construction Trades Department AFL-CIO.

Key challenges will be identifying the availability of workers, the portability of skills and their willingness to work in remote areas.

“Recruiting for the projects is the first priority, but there is a second, critical challenge related to training and retaining workers to meet current needs as well as long-term needs,” says CSC Business Co-chair Tim Flood, President of John Flood and Sons (1961) Ltd. 

“The industry is working to ensure that investments in apprenticeships and other types of training and support systems keep pace with demand,” he says.

“Industry promotion is a high priority, as we will need to tap into all potential sources of labour supply to meet growing needs. Increased efforts will aim at attracting youth, women, Aboriginal people, other industries and immigrants,” says Flood.

Looking at the regional projections, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are expected to follow the overall national pattern of recovery and expansion across the outlook period.

However, some regions can expect employment to grow by as much as 20 percent from 2012 to 2020. Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador report very strong employment growth. In fact, at peak times, major resource projects could exhaust the available workforce for some skilled trades and occupations in these provinces. 

Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia likely will have moderate year-to-year changes in total construction employment.

The national and regional reports are available online at www.csc-ca.org and forecast data is also available at www.constructionforecasts.ca for residential and non-residential construction investment data, as well as supply and demand for more than 30 skilled trades and occupations over the next nine years – all broken down by province and region.