Ottawa – While Ontario’s construction and maintenance sector saw a slight decline in employment in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected to resume growth in 2021, and continue to rise through 2026. By the end of the decade, the industry will need to hire, train, and retain more than 116,000 additional workers to keep pace with expected demand growth and retirements. This is according to the latest labour market forecast data released today by BuildForce Canada.
BuildForce Canada’s 2021–2030 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Ontario shows that several major transportation, utility, and other infrastructure projects are expected to ramp up in 2021 and 2022, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and Eastern and Southwestern regions.
“The disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic moderated the anticipated rapid rise in Ontario’s labour market demand over the near term, but they are not expected to change the anticipated labour market challenges beyond that,” says BuildForce Canada Executive Director Bill Ferreira. “Commercial building construction was most affected by COVID restrictions, but as the economy reopens, those projects will get back on schedule. This will add to an already-strong inventory of project requirements and could lead to a re-emergence of broad recruiting challenges between 2021 and 2023.”
“Ontario’s five regions – Central, Eastern, GTA, Northern, and Southwestern – are interconnected, but each tells its own distinct labour market story,” says Ferreira. “We see a number of competing demands for construction and maintenance workers over the decade that, taken together, are likely to limit the potential for intraprovincial labour mobility to satisfy peak regional requirements.”
Ontario’s large pipeline of major projects, alongside steady levels of new-housing construction and renovation activity, is projected to increase construction employment by 35,180 workers (+9%) by 2026 before moderating thereafter. Total construction employment is expected to end the decade up 23,540 workers (+6%) beyond the 2020 starting point.
Through two decades of growth, Ontario has built up an immense skilled construction labour force. Sustaining capacity over the decade, however, will be made more difficult by the expected retirement of an estimated 92,500 workers – the equivalent of 21% of the 2020 labour force. While the industry is estimated to recruit 84,800 new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population over the same period, a projected gap of some 31,400 workers will need to be filled from outside the province’s existing construction labour force to meet increased demands.
The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. New registrations in Ontario have been on the rise since 2016, increasing by 27% to more than 11,100 in 2019.
Ontario’s construction industry is projected to require more than 26,800 new certified journeypersons to sustain the current workforce share of certifications and keep pace with employment and replacement demands across all industries over the scenario period. Based on projected new registrations and completion trends, several of its 21 largest construction trades could be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2030. They include bricklayers, glaziers, industrial electricians, 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 Ontario. Limited data collected to date suggests that the pandemic has 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 67,900 women employed in Ontario’s construction industry, of which 23% worked directly on construction projects. As a share of overall on-site employment, women accounted for only 4% of the total.
The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Ontario’s construction industry. In 2020, Indigenous people accounted for approximately 2.4% of Ontario’s total working-age population – and about 2.7% of its construction labour force. Of those employed in the industry, about 80% work directly on construction projects. While Indigenous participation in the province’s construction labour force is mostly in line with its share of the overall working-age population, given the predisposition of Indigenous workers to consider careers in construction, there may be scope to further increase the recruitment of Indigenous people into the industry.
Ontario’s construction industry may also leverage new Canadians over the coming decade to meet anticipated labour market requirements. The province is expected to welcome an average of 135,000 new international migrants each year between 2021 and 2030, making this population an important segment of the overall labour force. Currently, Ontario’s construction labour force is comprised of approximately 26% new Canadians, which is lower than the overall share of new Canadians in the provincial labour force (31%).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
London & District Construction Association
Council of Ontario Construction Associations
(416) 968-7200 ext. 224
John A. DeVries
Ottawa Construction Association
(613) 236-0488, ext. 10
Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario
Construction Labour Relations Association – Ontario
Ontario General Contractors Association
Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario
Vice President and Regional Director, Ontario
Progressive Contractors Association of Canada
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.