Alberta’s construction recovery will be modest through 2027, with employment sustained by demographics


Alberta’s construction market showed signs of a long-awaited recovery in 2021, thanks to a strong rise in residential-sector investment and increased major-project requirements. That growth and increasing heavy-industrial maintenance requirements should lead to an even stronger pace in 2022, before moderating through 2027.

BuildForce Canada released its 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Alberta 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.

“Alberta’s construction market is emerging from a challenging period that saw a downward trend in employment carry through from 2015 to 2021,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Our scenario forecast for the province anticipates overall construction employment to strengthen further in 2022, driven by an increase in both residential and non-residential demands. Demands weaken temporarily in 2023 as many current major projects wind down and new housing slows, but modest growth should continue over the remainder of the forecast period.”

Construction employment in Alberta is expected to rise by about 2,400 workers, or 1.4% of the 2021 labour force, by 2027.

In the near term, Alberta employers may face recruiting challenges. The contraction of the province’s construction market in recent years led many workers to leave the industry or look for work outside of the province. Those losses deepened in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting instability in the oil and gas markets. Labour force declines were most pronounced among the core working-age group of those 25 to 55 years of age. While some of those workers are expected to re-enter the labour force as the economy re-opens, the loss of experienced workers, should they be slow to return or decide to retire, could have a lasting impact.

BuildForce Canada expects that Alberta’s construction industry will need to replace an estimated 22,650 workers, or 12% of the current labour force, who are expected to retire by 2027. The province, however, is well positioned to close any resulting employment gaps, given that approximately 23,000 new workers under the age of 30 are projected to enter the labour force from the local population.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. New registrations in Alberta’s 19 largest construction trade programs experienced a significant decline in 2019, falling 20% from 2018 levels to under 7,800 new registrants, in line with lower levels of provincial employment. The latest Registered Apprentice Information Systems data suggests that new registrations declined by a further 30% in 2020, as COVID-19 imposed obstacles to the delivery of in-school training, testing, and certification. These impacts are likely to reduce the near-term numbers of new certified workers.

Based on projected new registrations and completion trends, several Alberta trades are at risk of potentially undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2027. Trades within this group include Boilermaker, Carpenter, Glazier, Insulator, Powerline Technician, 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 36,000 women employed in Alberta’s construction industry. Of them, however, only 32% worked directly in on-site construction. As a share of the total, women made up just 7% of the 168,800 tradespeople employed in Alberta’s construction industry in 2021. These figures are virtually unchanged from 2020.

The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Alberta’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. Alberta is expected to welcome an average of nearly 229,460 new international migrants each year between 2022 and 2027, making the immigrant population a key potential source of labour force growth. Currently, newcomers and more established immigrants make up about 17% of the province’s construction workforce.

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

Tyler Bedford
Director of Communications
Building Trades of Alberta
780-298-7626

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

Ken Gibson
President
Alberta Construction Association
780-233-6738

Ron Glen
CEO
Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association
780-436-9860 ext. 225

Dennis Perrin
Prairies Director
CLAC
587-785-1836