Mobilizing underrepresented Canadians, apprentices stressed in BuildForce Canada’s 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward reports


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BuildForce Canada’s soon-to-be released* 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward national report tells an important story about the industry’s efforts to meet the workforce challenges of tomorrow.

The report forecasts that Canada’s construction and maintenance industry will add approximately 50,200 workers by 2029. However, when the anticipated retirement of more than 257,000 construction workers over the same period is considered, industry will need to recruit more than 307,000 additional workers, just to keep pace with demand.

Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report masthead

BuildForce continues to track industry efforts to increase the recruitment of women, Indigenous peoples, and new Canadians into the construction labour force. These three groups remain underrepresented in the current labour force and increasing their participation will be critical to meeting industry’s future labour force requirements, particularly in direct on-site trades where they’re most needed.

In 2019, Alberta led the country in the employment of women in the trades as a percentage of all tradespeople at 6.8%, running slightly ahead of British Columbia at 6.4%. Manitoba’s construction industry led in the employment of Indigenous peoples at 16% of its construction labour force, of which about 81% worked directly on construction projects. The Ontario construction industry led in the employment of new Canadians at 26%.

While some provinces have realized significant rewards by recruiting workers from these groups, the report indicates that there’s still significant potential for industry to engage people represented by these groups to help make up projected labour shortfalls.

The construction and maintenance industry remains dependent on Canada’s robust apprenticeship training system for the development of the vast majority of its highly specialized skilled workers.

While BuildForce has always tracked apprenticeship development, we are including in this year’s provincial LMI outlooks additional data to provide industry with a more complete picture to measure whether current training efforts are sufficient to meet anticipated future needs.

To that end, the 2020 reports broaden our reporting scope to include more construction programs committed to apprentice training, to provide a more accurate picture of how many apprentices are registering, and how many are completing their programs.

The forecast breaks down the data even further, listing the anticipated certifications required to meet the construction industry’s share of employment and replacement demand in key trades over the forecast scenario period. In the Alberta report, for example, all listed trades are expected to meet or exceed anticipated requirements by 2029, with the exception of boilermakers and carpenters. It’s data that can help industry focus attention on training for the trades that require the greatest attention today, instead of years from now.

The message of the BuildForce forecast report is clear: given an overall increase in labour demand on a national level to 2029, industry can’t count on just interprovincial mobility to meet its labour force needs. Industry will need to concentrate on recruiting, training, and retaining young workers, even as it reaches out to members of underrepresented groups to satisfy construction’s labour force requirements by 2029.

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* The 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward reports will be released in early February 2020. You will find them at www.buildforce.ca/en/lmi/forecast-summary-reports.

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by Klayton Goncalves, Senior Economist, BuildForce Canada