Immigration is the key to construction growth and labour force development in New Brunswick


Ottawa – New Brunswick’s construction and maintenance industry is expected to sustain stable levels of activity through 2030, but will have to augment recruitment efforts in a number of areas to keep up with demand.

The latest labour market information released today by BuildForce Canada projects that construction demand in the province will be driven by sustained increases in immigration. As a result, demand for new housing will remain at current near-high levels for most of the forecast period. The completion of several civil and institutional infrastructure projects, in contrast, will reduce demand for non-residential employment in the near term, though heavy-industrial maintenance requirements may create seasonal recruitment challenges for some specific trades.

BuildForce Canada’s 2021–2030 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for New Brunswick forecasts moderate growth in construction employment through 2024.

“New Brunswick’s construction requirements are poised to edge higher in 2021 as demands increase in response to projected stronger immigration-driven population growth,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Growth in the province’s residential sector is expected to be offset by declines in the non-residential sector through the early years of the forecast period. As a result, we see only moderate changes in total construction employment across the scenario period.”

The BuildForce Canada outlook projects that 6,950 workers – or approximately 28% of the current labour force – will retire from the province’s construction industry by 2030. Based on historical trends, the industry is expected to draw an estimated 4,330 first-time new entrants under the age of 30 from the local population over the same period. When declines in anticipated demands are factored in, a projected gap of more than 2,300 workers is expected to emerge.

“Addressing this gap will require the industry to adopt a number of human resource strategies,” says Ferreira. “These could include further promoting career opportunities to women, Indigenous peoples, immigrants and newly arrived immigrants, and displaced workers from other industries with the required skill sets to work in construction, as well as drawing on construction workers from other provinces where demands have softened during periods of heightened demand.”

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. Registration in New Brunswick’s 16 largest trade programs has fluctuated significantly in recent years.

New Brunswick is projected to require more than 2,450 new certified journeypersons to sustain the current workforce share of certifications and keep pace with employment and replacement demand across all construction segments over the scenario period. Based on projected new registrations and completion trends, several trades were identified as being at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2030. They include boilermakers, bricklayers, carpenters, hoist operators, sheet metal workers, sprinkler fitters, and welders. An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development will remain necessary to avoid potential future skills shortages in the industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly complicated apprentice registration and completion rates in New Brunswick. Limited data collected to date suggests that the pandemic has resulted in a steep decline in new registrations relative to employment. It has also imposed significant obstacles to the in-school delivery of training, testing, and certification. These impacts are likely to reduce the near-term numbers of new certified workers.

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

In 2020, there were approximately 2,100 women employed in New Brunswick’s construction industry, of which 30% worked directly on construction projects. Of the 20,400 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up only 3% of the total. Indigenous people accounted for approximately 5% of the total labour force in Atlantic Canada, but only 2.7% of the province’s construction labour force. With about 79% of the industry’s Indigenous workers active in on-site construction, there could be further scope to increase the participation of Indigenous people in the construction trades. Increasing the participation rate of women and Indigenous people would go a long way to help the industry address its future labour force needs.

New Canadians currently comprise approximately 2% of New Brunswick’s construction workforce. The province’s policy aimed at raising immigration numbers over recent years has been successful in contributing to population growth. It is estimated that over the coming decade, the province may welcome an average of 6,800 newcomers every year, so as the construction workforce ages, increasing the participation of new Canadians in the industry will be important to ensure the construction labour force remains adequate to the needs of the economy.

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 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. 2220.

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:

John Landry
Executive Director
Construction Association of New Brunswick
506-478-0042

Nadine Fullarton
President
Moncton Northeast Construction Association and Mechanical Contractors Association of New Brunswick
506-857-4038

Tom McGinn
Executive Director
New Brunswick Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association
506-454-5079

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