29,000 tradespersons needed by 2027
Photo credit | Buildforce
BuildForce Canada estimates the country will be short as many as 29,000 skilled tradespersons over the next five years , due to retirement and demand for construction workers and other skilled trades.
Construction investment rebounded strongly in 2021 as Canada’s economy recovered from the effects of the pandemic. Total year-over-year construction investment increased by approximately 11 per cent in 2021—both residential (up 14 per cent) and non-residential (up 8 per cent) sectors saw gains.
“Investment is projected to remain at or near current high levels through 2023 and before declining gradually over the remainder of the forecast period,” BuildForce stated.
The rise in construction activity in 2021 lifted employment to approximately 1.1 million workers—a 7 per cent increase over 2020 levels and a 1 per cent rise over pre-pandemic figures recorded in 2019.
In 2021, 9 per cent of all Indigenous people in the workforce—or approximately 63,700—were employed in Canada’s construction sector. The national construction labour force is comprised of approximately 20 per cent new Canadians, which is lower than the overall share of new Canadians in the total labour force (26 per cent).
The surge in construction activity in both the residential and non-residential sectors is expected to boost employment further to a peak in 2022, before diverging trends take hold thereafter.
Labour market challenges could be an ongoing preoccupation across Ontario as unemployment rates return to pre-pandemic lows, and construction demand in the residential and non-residential sectors is sustained through at least 2026, according to BuildForce.
“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge, particularly as we start to see more and more individuals retiring from the industry,” said BuildForce executive director Bill Ferreira.
“And the demand pressures on the industry are going to be huge because it’s not just construction that is facing a demographic crunch. Any industry that relies on skilled trade workers is looking at the same sort of demographic challenge.”
“As a result, we are starting to see a reversal of some of these trends, particularly on the non-residential side and some provinces across the country.”
Ian Howcroft, CEO of Skills Ontario, suggested positive signs on trades recruitment are the result of a combination of initiatives from groups across the sector.
“I think it’s great to see that our efforts are bearing fruit, that we are having some success, but I think it’s also incumbent on all of us to keep that going,” Howcroft said. “There are some demographics where people will be retiring in large numbers. So, we have to make sure that this continues because it takes a long time to train a skilled tradesperson.”