It’s well documented that the Canadian construction industry is facing labour shortages, and it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Despite the industry’s efforts to draw new entrants into this employment gap, a report suggests an additional 26,100 workers from outside the province’s construction labour force will be needed.
The Construction & Maintenance Looking Forward report 2019 by BuildForce forecasts that Ontario alone will need to hire, train, and retain almost 103,900 additional workers over the coming decade.
Moreover, this pattern isn’t unique to Ontario—the situation is looking just as gloomy for the rest of Canada.
At what price?
This skilled labour shortage has created another problem. Those with the appropriate skills are now demanding higher wages. However, even with Ontario’s current building boom, margins are tight.
Since construction is such a labour-intensive industry, a lack of skilled labour may easily affect it. The provinces’ prosperity often stalls when demand exceeds supply, or projects become cost-prohibitive due to high labour costs.
Combatting Labour Shortage with Technology
Collectively, the whole industry is responsible for maintaining the prosperity. Employers, educational institutions and industry associations are all playing their part in recruiting, training and retaining skilled workers.
Technology providers have now entered the game to combat the industry’s biggest threat. While a calculator can’t hammer in a nail, tech is becoming increasingly important in our management of labour.
The latest software provides a turnkey solution that everyone—from the architect to the on-site superintendent—is using to manage the project. The software is like a Gantt chart on steroids. Not only are teams’ using it to manage design changes, but they’re also conducting real-time change analyses to determine the best possible solution. The technology can help with personnel management, scheduling, and the respective costs.
“Technology allows us to effectively collaborate with all parties including subcontractors, workers, consultants and clients to have instant and broader access to reliable information that leads to better and more informed decision-making,” said Fred Cromie, Senior Business Analyst, Bird Construction.
“Projects need to run lean given the current labour conditions. With fewer resources available, we need to get the right people at the right time, and we require more effective and efficient processes to meet the demand and deadlines of construction activities,” Cromie continued.
Evolving Construction Careers
When people talk about construction careers, the first jobs that spring to mind are professions like plumbers and electricians. While less obvious, careers like construction software specialists, 3D CAD modellers or business analysts, are also on the table.
Undoubtedly, the increasing use of software in the industry is helping to improve workers’ skills and make them more efficient.
The knock-on effect is the industry can now also draw on talent from outside to fill positions.
“In the future, I anticipate we may need to approach candidates from outside of the industry who exhibit the right skills and experience for these roles,” said Russell Carnley, Business Director, Construction & Property, at recruitment agency Hays Canada.
In fact, talent can be sourced from anywhere in Canada, so Ontario employers are not bound by provincial boundaries.
“New and exciting advancements in Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Laser Scanning and 3D Printing, and drones offer new skill-sets and will attract people into the industry. A new source of skilled labour will be needed to implement and advance these technologies for future generations,” added Carnley.