Alberta’s construction industry is facing changes as oil sand projects approach completion. This might be a stagnant situation from 2018 to 2023. The existing labor will have to move to other sectors in the industry or obtain new skills to get other jobs. New jobs in maintenance, infrastructure, and development are some options available to absorb the work loss. Employment opportunities might not reach the all-time highs of the mid-late 2000s but there is still an expected 40,000 retirees to replace. These are some hot points to keep an eye on in the next decade.
Despite improvements in oil prices in 2017, the uncertainty of future prices results in stagnation in the oil sector. The completion of the Fort Hills oil sands project signs the end of ‘mega-projects’ wave that started before the collapse of the oil price. There is no sign of new oil projects from 2018 all through 2023. Between 2014 and 2016 the oil crisis had caused mass provincial exit among construction workers. A gradual and consistent rise in oil prices in the later part of the decade will build new confidence in the sector. New projects are expected to start in 2027.
Shutdown and maintenance in the industrial sector will see employment challenges for specialized workmen such as pipefitters, welders, boilermakers, and specialty welders. With the increase in population, Alberta will also see a development of institutional and commercial investments. In 2017 there was a decrease in commercial investments as a result of high office vacancy rates. This trend will change as offices will absorb local workers from the oil sector job loss creating a need for commercial investments. This will keep Alberta’s construction industry busy.
Alberta’s construction industry market continues to adjust after experiencing consecutive years of provincial exit. Strong drivers of this migration being the employment loss in the oil projects between 2014-2016. The unemployment rate rose steeply up to 9% but will see declines in future as less skilled workmen learn new skills and gain employment in shutdown and maintenance processes. Also, as slow recovery of the economy from oil price collapse ensues after 2019, lower unemployment rates are expected. The industry must replace the potential 40,000 expectant retirees over the next decade. The potential of new entrants is pegged at 38,300 by BuildforceCanada. This leaves a deficit of about 1700 workers. Experts expect an influx of workers from other regions or other sectors of the economy by 2027 when oil prices improve and new oil projects begin.
The housing in Alberta, driven down by increased unemployment rates and out of province migration between 2014-2016, saw some positive steps in 2017. This improvement was as a result of better economic conditions, resource expansion, and moderate population growth. Industry experts expect an overall increase in housing employment by up to 6 % with new residential constructions and renovations by 2027. Up to 40,600 housing units are expected to be built by 2027.
The slump in oil prices (among others) still affects Alberta’s economy. Construction demand yet recedes up to the fourth year. However, some skilled positions related to shutdown and maintenance will be in higher demand as oil projects come to completion. Workers employed in the industry should learn other skills needed in maintenance processes to stay relevant in their province.
Nevertheless, the number of expected retirees exceeds the number of expected new entrants into the workforce in the next decade. Recruiting challenges may resume with the new expected increase in oil prices and presumed new oil projects by 2027. Also, the population growth will lead to increased housing and renovation projects over the next decade. All these factors could put a strain on future labor employment.
These highlights present a powerful planning tool for prospective construction workers, companies and the government at large.
Steel Toe Jobs is Canada’s First Careers based Community for the Construction industry.