As employment moderates, Manitoba can draw on youth to fill retirement gaps


Manitoba’s construction market is set to continue its recovery through 2022, as new provincial infrastructure spending offsets the winding down of activity at the Hydro Manitoba Keeyask dam project. In the long term, however, construction demands are expected to moderate.

BuildForce Canada released its 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Manitoba today. The report focuses on a six-year horizon for provincial labour market data as opposed to the 10 years studied in previous reports. The shortened forecast period allows the report to focus more clearly on short- and long-term demand and supply pressures impacting the province’s construction sector.

Employment in Manitoba is expected to peak in 2022, corresponding with peak requirements in the residential (+2%) and non-residential (+3.4%) sectors. More moderate growth is expected to the end of the forecast period for the non-residential sector, while employment growth in the residential sector recedes. By 2027, these trends will largely offset, leaving overall construction employment almost unchanged compared to the 2021 labour force.

“Historically, Manitoba has benefitted from a younger workforce more than most provinces, and this fact should stand the province in good stead over the forecast period,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “If most of the young workers that exited the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic return as the economy re-opens, and if the industry is able to recruit its fair share of workers from the local population, Manitoba should be able to satisfy its hiring requirements through 2027.”

BuildForce Canada expects that 4,500 workers – or nearly 11% of Manitoba’s current construction labour force – will retire by 2027. At the same time, the industry is expected to attract an estimated 5,400 new workers under the age of 30 from the local population. This trend is extremely positive and shows that industry efforts to boost recruitment to meet future needs is working, and that the industry should be able to meet its anticipated labour force demands throughout the forecast period.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. New registrations in Manitoba’s 15 largest trade programs have trended downward since 2013, reaching a low of 1,009 in 2018. A 20% increase in 2019 was more than offset by the impacts of the pandemic. The latest Registered Apprentice Information Systems data suggests that new registrations declined by 31% to 834 – the lowest level of new registrants since 2005. These impacts are likely to reduce the near-term numbers of new certified workers.

Based on projected new registrations and completion trends, several Manitoba trades are at risk of potentially undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2027. Trades within this group include Boilermaker, Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), Industrial Electrician, Mobile Crane Operator, and Welder.

The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment of individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous people, and newcomers to Canada.

In 2021, there were approximately 5,880 women employed in Manitoba’s construction industry, or about 300 more than in 2020. Of them, however, only 26% worked directly in on-site construction. Women represented just 4% of the 38,700 tradespeople employed in Manitoba’s industry in 2021.

The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Manitoba’s construction industry. In 2021, approximately 63,700 Indigenous people were employed in Canada’s construction sector, or 9% of all Indigenous people in the workforce. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada and Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, there may be scope to further increase the recruitment of Indigenous people into the province’s construction industry.

The construction industry is also committed to the recruitment of newcomers to Canada. Manitoba is expected to welcome an average of just under 10,000 newcomers every year through 2027, making the immigrant population a key potential source of labour force growth. Currently, newcomers and more established immigrants make up about 15% of the province’s construction workforce.

Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous people, and new Canadians could help Manitoba’s construction industry address its future labour force needs.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to support the labour market development needs of the construction and maintenance industry. As part of these activities, BuildForce works with key industry stakeholders, including contractors, proponents of construction, labour providers, governments and training providers, to identify both demand and supply trends that will impact labour force capacity in the sector, and supports the career searches of job seekers wanting to work in the industry. BuildForce also leads programs and initiatives that support workforce upskilling, workforce productivity improvements, improvements to training modalities, human resource tools to support the adoption of industry best practices, as well as other value-added initiatives focused on supporting the industry’s labour force development needs. Visit www.buildforce.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:

Ramona Coey
Executive Director
Mechanical Contractors Association of Manitoba
204-774-2404

Paul de Jong
President
Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA)
403-620-3781

Darryl Harrison
Director, Stakeholder Engagement
Winnipeg Construction Association
204-755-8664 ext. 2249

Sudhir Sandhu
Chief Executive Officer
Manitoba Building Trades
204-956-7425