Growth poised to resume in Saskatchewan, with demographics likely to close most resulting employment gaps


After reaching a floor in 2020, Saskatchewan’s construction market enjoyed growth in 2021 and appears poised to see another sustained expansion period.

Labour market projections for the construction and maintenance sector released today by BuildForce Canada suggest that a recovery in new-housing construction will combine with a provincial capital investment plan to drive construction employment higher in the near term, followed by new mining opportunities driving longer-term growth opportunities.

BuildForce Canada’s 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Saskatchewan 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 identify short- and long-term demand and supply pressures impacting the province’s construction sector more clearly.

“Saskatchewan’s construction market is expected to remain on an upward trend through 2023, driven by residential activity, major public expenditures, and the anticipated start of a potash mine expansion, a canola processing plant, and a natural gas power plant in Moose Jaw,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “We anticipate that investment will cycle down slightly in 2024 before ramping back up again through the end of our forecast period.”

Such growth may present recruiting challenges. BuildForce anticipates that nearly 5,000 workers, or 13% of Saskatchewan’s 2021 construction labour force, will exit the workforce through retirement in the next six years. Demand growth during this period will require the addition of 1,100 workers, bringing the total recruitment requirement to 6,100 workers between 2022 and 2027.

Given Saskatchewan’s younger age demographics, most of the industry’s hiring requirements could be met by an estimated 5,260 first-time new entrants under the age of 30 from the local population. This would leave a gap of about 860 workers that will need to be recruited from outside the local construction labour force. In the non-residential sector, new entrants are expected to exceed the number of exits to retirement.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. Registrations in Saskatchewan’s sixteen largest construction trades programs have declined over the past decade, falling by 54% from 2012 to 2019. The latest Registered Apprentice Information Systems data suggests new registrations slowed in 2020, resulting in a further 22% decline from 2019 levels.

At the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completions, several trades could be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2027. These trades include Boom Truck Operator, Carpenter, Insulator (Heat and Frost), Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic, Scaffolder, Sheet Metal Worker, Steamfitter/Pipefitter, 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 5,720 women employed in Saskatchewan’s construction industry; a figure that is almost unchanged from 2020. Of them, however, only 39% worked directly in on-site construction. As a share of the total, women made up just 6% of the 35,300 tradespeople employed in the industry in 2021. That figure is also unchanged from 2020.

The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Saskatchewan’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. Saskatchewan is expected to welcome an average of more than 5,800 newcomers every year through 2027, making the immigrant population a key potential source of labour force growth.

Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous people, and new Canadians could help Saskatchewan’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:

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

Warren Douglas
Executive Director
Construction Labour Relations Association – Saskatchewan
306-352-7909

Karen Low
President of Merit Canada
Merit Saskatchewan
306-961-7346

Dennis Perrin
Prairies Director
CLAC
587-785-1836