Home » Saskatchewan: Reduced investment in construction could present long-term labour force challenges for Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan: Reduced investment in construction could present long-term labour force challenges for Saskatchewan

January 31, 2019

Ottawa – Labour force demand in Saskatchewan’s construction and maintenance industry should remain largely unchanged by 2028, although the coming decade could be punctuated by recruiting challenges driven by a housing recovery and a proposed large-scale mining project, according to the labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

The province’s construction and maintenance labour force contracted for a fourth-straight year in 2018. Since the 2014 peak, the provincial industry has lost more than 7,000 jobs, as major industrial engineering projects were winding down and housing starts declined by 50% over this period. Continued declines in 2018 were attributed to an 18% decrease in housing starts that were reduced to their lowest level since 2009. Ensuring weaker levels of construction activity do not prompt an excessive flight of skilled workers from the labour force will be an ongoing industry concern.

BuildForce Canada’s 2019–2028 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial forecast report warns that a continued flight of workers from the industry could cause recruiting challenges later in the coming decade, as demand for new housing increases and coincides with the start of a new major mining project.

“Saskatchewan’s construction and maintenance industry is transitioning from a market dominated by large engineering projects to one characterized by long-term residential and industrial, commercial, and institutional building construction,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “The industry will need to take a long-term view by continuing outreach efforts and maintaining its training capacity during this transition.”

While high retirement levels are depleting the ranks of construction and maintenance workers across the country, Saskatchewan remains in a unique position, where the 9,400 retiring workers leaving the industry over the coming decade could be replaced almost entirely by new entrants aged 30 or younger from the local population. The province should require a total of 9,500 new construction and maintenance workers by 2028.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. Over the past five years, more than 10,000 apprentices registered in the province’s 15 largest construction programs, with 6,800 completions registered during that period. An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development will be necessary to ensure there are sufficient numbers of qualified tradespeople to sustain a skilled workforce over the long term.

Building a sustainable labour force will also require the construction and maintenance industry to increase recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented in the current construction labour force, including women, Indigenous Canadians, and new Canadians.

In 2018, women employed in Saskatchewan represented 46% of the province’s total labour force. In the province’s construction and maintenance industry, however, women represented just 12% of the industry’s labour force and accounted for only 3.9% of workers employed in direct on-site project construction. Similarly, Indigenous Canadians also represented a small percentage of the construction labour force, accounting for little more than 12% of the total. Increasing the participation rate of both these groups would go a long way to helping the industry address its future labour force needs.

Saskatchewan’s construction workforce is made up of approximately 8% new Canadians. Over the coming decade, the province is expected to welcome an average of 13,710 newcomers every year, making the immigrant population an important future source of potential workers for the province’s construction and maintenance industry.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to provide accurate and timely labour market data and analysis, as well as programs and initiatives to help manage labour force requirements and build the capacity and the capability of Canada’s construction and maintenance industry. Visit www.constructionforecasts.ca.

For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at ferreira@buildforce.ca or 613-569-5552 ext. 222.

This report was produced with the support and input of a variety of provincial construction and maintenance industry stakeholders. For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:

  • Warren Douglas, Executive Director, CLR Construction Labour Relations Association of Saskatchewan Inc., 306-352-7909, WDouglas@clrs.org
  • Chris M. Guérette, CEO, Saskatoon & Region Home Builders’ Association, 306-292-8610, cguerette@saskatoonhomebuilders.com

  • John Lax, Director of Advocacy and Communications, Saskatchewan Construction Association, (306) 525-0171, johnl@scaonline.ca

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.