Construction activity in Prince Edward Island continues to recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with strong activity in both the residential and non-residential sectors contributing to overall employment growth. The challenge for the industry will be in responding to the considerable demands such growth has placed on almost all of its construction and maintenance trades and occupations.
The BuildForce Canada 2023–2032 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Prince Edward Island, released today, anticipates that market pressures will peak in 2023 before contracting almost continuously across the remainder of the forecast period. By the end of the decade, employment is expected to contract by 6% over 2022 levels, with residential employment declining by just under 2% and non-residential employment by just below 10%.
“PEI’s construction industry faces similar challenges to those of other provinces, namely higher sustained levels of construction activity tempered by an aging labour force,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “The construction sector is becoming increasingly dependent on the mobility of skilled trades from outside the province and the scaling up of local recruitment and training capacity.”
“The major challenge currently facing the industry is the immediate requirements for large numbers of skilled and experienced workers across almost all of its key trades and occupations. Not all of these requirements can be met by new or young, inexperienced workers. The industry is being further challenged by the labour force’s inability to grow at the same pace as employment, thus further reducing already-low unemployment levels. The industry reached near full employment between June and October of 2022,” says Sam Sanderson, General Manager of the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island (CAPEI).
These factors will likely complicate existing recruiting challenges. The province’s construction industry will need to recruit 1,590 additional workers through 2032 to keep pace with labour force demands and to replace 1,490 retiring workers, or 22% of its 2022 construction labour force. These numbers are based on existing known demands and do not take into account the federal government’s goal to double the number of new homes built across Canada over the next 10 years, nor the anticipated increase in demand for construction services related to the retrofit of existing residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings to accommodate the electrification of the economy.
Although the industry is projected to recruit as many as 1,450 workers aged 30 and younger over the decade, it will likely need to recruit close to 140 additional workers to meet demands.
“The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. CAPEI has been working hard with the province to increase interest and registrations in construction trades programs, which should lead to an increase in completions in the coming years. Foundational to this training is a new and innovative collaborative approach to the educational experience that better prepares graduates for dealing with the complex environmental and sustainability issues that will be seminal in future building construction,” says Sanderson.
Based on the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completion trends, only the Carpenter and Construction Electrician trades may be at risk of undersupplying the number of required journeypersons by 2032.
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 under-represented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous People, and newcomers to Canada.
In 2022, there were approximately 900 women employed in Prince Edward Island’s construction industry; a small increase over the 850 employed in 2021. Of them, 43% worked on site, directly on construction projects, while the remaining 57% worked off site, primarily in administrative and management-related occupations. Women accounted for just 6% of the 6,400 tradespeople employed in Prince Edward Island in 2022. That share is unchanged from 2021.
The Indigenous population is another under-represented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Prince Edward Island’s construction industry. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 3% of the province’s construction labour force. That figure is more than double the share observed in 2016. It is also higher than the share of Indigenous workers represented in the overall labour force. 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. Based on historical settlement trends, the province is expected to welcome an average of 3,500 newcomers to Canada every year through 2032. This fact could make the immigrant population a key source of labour force growth. In 2021, newcomers accounted for just over 6% of the total construction labour force in Prince Edward Island. That figure is lower than the 11% they accounted for across all industries in the province.
Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous People, and new Canadians could help Prince Edward Island’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 email@example.com 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:
Construction Association of Prince Edward Island
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.