According to a recent survey by a construction organization, there is a serious construction workers shortage that won’t allow building all the homes required to meet B.C.’s housing targets. And there might be not enough workers for a while.
Issues continue to loom on the horizon for BC’s $8.1 billion construction sector. Two-thirds of workers in skilled trades are now over the age of 45 and in their wake. There are simply not enough new people entering the field. But these demographic trends and a projected increase in construction activity are forecast to create a 15,000-worker shortfall in the coming years.
The labor shortage in B.C.’s construction industry is expected to hit 90 percent of companies in several trades. Plus 75 percent of companies across the province are reporting they can’t find enough qualified workers. Otherwise, this market shortage will cause most problems in the Lower Mainland and in Victoria.
That’s up from 60 percent of companies who complained a year ago of a shortage of qualified workers. But about half of the association’s members are expecting more work this year and that will likely mean an even tighter labor market.
The trades with the most critical shortages, according to the percentage of employers who cannot find enough workers. There were glaziers at 100 percent followed by pipe-fitters at 93 percent, sheet metal workers at 91 percent, and electricians and plumbers, both with 89 percent. By region, the greatest percentage of companies fearing shortages were in the Interior, 82 percent, Northern B.C., 80 percent, Vancouver Island, 76 percent, and Metro Vancouver/Whistler, 74 percent.
Carpenters were among the top three in short supply in all regions, laborer’s in three, framers in two and truck drivers, drywallers and plumbers in one region.
Luckily for workers, all respondents foresaw wage increases in 2018 over 2017, by an average of 5.1 percent, to $27 an hour.
The government has proposed practical short-term solutions such as more training seats in colleges. Most importantly, more work experience opportunities for apprentices, and a return to compulsory certification for all trades. All of these measures will hopefully increase the number of apprentices and help more of them complete their training.
According to a local construction union, the expectation is that the population will continue to grow largely. Because of immigration from other parts of B.C. and other provinces. This means that there could be more construction workers, but also it means more projects to fill jobs for.
It’ll be important for workers to stay vigilant and make sure they are taking advantage of the construction labor shortage.
Steel Toe Jobs is Canada’s First Careers based Community for the Construction industry.