Saskatchewan’s construction sector is in the midst of a sustained period of growth, as elevated levels of activity in both the residential and non-residential sectors should bring work to a peak in 2024. Market conditions should ease thereafter but remain elevated by historical standards through 2032.
The BuildForce Canada 2023–2032 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Saskatchewan, released today, anticipates that growth in the province’s residential sector could ease slightly in 2023 before rising to a peak in 2028. Activity in the non-residential sector, meanwhile, will remain elevated through 2024, supported by new and ongoing manufacturing, utility, mining, school, and health care projects, before slowing to 2026 as many of these projects conclude.
After posting an increase of 6% in 2022, employment demands are expected to grow by a further 8% to a peak in 2027, before contracting across the remainder of the 10-year forecast period. By 2032, overall employment is expected to rise by 3%, driven by growth in the province’s residential sector.
“The residential sector will be a real driver of growth for Saskatchewan’s construction sector through most of the forecast period,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Demand is being sustained by strong migration to the province, which will bolster activity into the later forecast years. The outlook for the non-residential sector, on the other hand, is more closely tied to selected major projects, including the Jansen potash mine.”
Such growth could strain already-challenged labour markets. Entering the forecast period, many of Saskatchewan’s residential and non-residential trades and occupations were experiencing tight labour markets. Meanwhile, employment is outgrowing the labour force, reducing the industry’s annual average unemployment rate to 6.3% in 2022.
“Across the forecast period to 2032, BuildForce anticipates that as many as 8,600 workers, or 21% of the province’s 2022 construction labour force, will exit the industry through retirement. At the same time, demand growth will require the addition of 2,200 workers, bringing the total recruitment requirement to 10,800 workers. This will keep labour force development front and centre for all contractors in the industry,” says Warren Douglas of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Saskatchewan Inc.
The BuildForce analysis is 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.
Given the province’s comparatively younger demographics, most of the industry’s hiring requirements could be met by an estimated 9,500 first-time new entrants under the age of 30 from the local population. This would leave a gap of about 1,300 workers that will need to be recruited from outside the local construction labour force. This hiring gap will be exclusive to the residential sector, as the non-residential sector is expected to attract more new-entrant workers than those it loses to retirement.
“The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program,” says Dennis Perrin, Prairies Director of CLAC. “Registrations in Saskatchewan’s 17 largest construction trades programs have declined over the past decade, which is of considerable concern to everyone in the province’s construction industry.”
Given the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completions, several trades may be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2032. These trades include Boom Truck Operator, Bricklayer, Carpenter, Construction Electrician, Insulator (heat and frost), Sheet Metal Worker, Steamfitter/Pipefitter, and Welder.
“The construction industry is working collaboratively to build a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment of youth, individuals from equity-deserving groups traditionally under-represented in the construction sector, and from outside the country through permanent immigration,” says Paul de Jong, President of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada.
In 2022, there were approximately 6,030 women employed in Saskatchewan’s construction industry. That figure represents an increase of 310 over the 5,720 reported in 2021. Of them, 40% worked directly in on-site construction. As a share of the total, women made up just 6% of the 37,900 tradespeople employed in the industry in 2022. That figure is unchanged from 2021.
The Indigenous population is another group that presents recruitment opportunities for Saskatchewan’s construction industry. The province has been successful in increasing the share of Indigenous People in the construction workforce. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 14% of the province’s construction labour force, which is an increase of one percentage point from the share observed in 2016. It is also notably higher than the share of Indigenous People represented in the overall labour force (11.5%). 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, Saskatchewan is expected to welcome an average of more than 9,900 newcomers every year through 2032, making the immigrant population a key potential source of labour force growth. Newcomers comprised about 10% of the total construction labour force in 2021, which is smaller than the 16% share of immigrants employed in the province’s overall labour force.
“Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous People, and new Canadians will be important in helping Saskatchewan’s construction industry continue to meet its future labour force needs,” says Graham Snell, President of Merit Saskatchewan. “Workforce diversity will be increasingly important as the available pool of younger workers declines and competition among industries to recruit them intensifies. It’s not just the right thing to do, but also critical to ensuring the sector has the skilled resources in the future to respond in a timely manner to the needs of the Canadian economy.”
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:
Paul de Jong
Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA)
Construction Labour Relations Association of Saskatchewan Inc.
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.