The Canadian construction industry workforce is getting older and will be in dire need of workers over the next decade—specifically in dire need of young workers.
With baby boomers retiring in droves, it’s anticipated the construction sector must attract more than 307,000 recruits by 2030 just to keep pace with demand.
Currently, there are 1.5 million workers in construction. The industry is further expected to grow by 50,000 workers and lose more than 257,000 to retirement over the next 10 years, according to national labour market forecast figures released by BuildForce Canada.
An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development will be necessary, therefore, to fill available positions. Otherwise, it might be impossible to ensure there are enough qualified tradespeople to sustain a skilled labour force over the long term.
To meet the need, construction employers will need to increase recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented in the construction labour force, including women, Indigenous people, and new Canadians.
Taking Aim at the Problem
The Canadian Construction Association (CCA), for one, is taking aim at the problem. In an effort to attract a new generation to join the industry, the contractor association has launched a Talent Fits Here campaign, designed to encourage more youth across the country to consider a career in the industry.
“For the first time in decades, the industry has more projects than people,” said Mary Van Buren, President of the CCA, which represents 20,000 firms. “And our industry is not alone—there is competition for talent across sectors due to shifting demographics and baby boomer retirements, and it is fierce.”
“For the first time in decades, the industry has more projects than people.”– Mary Van Buren, President of the CCA
Talent Fits Here is a national public awareness campaign created to shift some of the traditional perceptions around working in construction. It shares a collection of stories and experiences from real people working in different roles, on different projects, and from different backgrounds—all from within construction.
One of the individuals showcased in the campaign, a field co-ordinator at PCL Construction Mike Murage, explained it’s exciting to assemble a team and make it work seamlessly to achieve a goal.
“I’m never at my desk for more than two hours without going onto the site and seeing what’s happening,” he said. “It changes every single day, and that’s why I like it.”
After moving from Nairobi, Kenya, to study civil engineering at the University of Waterloo, he took advantage of multiple construction internships, which took him from Ontario to Alberta and back—twice.
He hopes others will consider it as a career, too, as he believes, “It’s an industry that welcomes anyone who has good ambition and self-discipline. If you appreciate challenges, and you like working with people, I’d say the construction industry is for you.”
Many Career Paths Available
There are many career paths available to youth entering the construction industry. At a recent online panel session sponsored by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) during a Futures Conference 2020 event, young women working in the industry discussed how and why they got into their fields.
“When it comes to construction, there are so many opportunities,” said Asal Afshar, an Employment Program Specialist at Tridel. She has a background in social work and got into the industry after doing a research report on youth and entry-level jobs. Having learned a lot about construction, she found the industry appealing.
“When it comes to construction, there are so many opportunities.”– Asal Afshar, Employment Program Specialist at Tridel
Meagan Donnelly, an insulation installer for Torino Drywall Inc., believes young people who want to get into the trades will have plenty of options to choose from due to upcoming retirements. She started out as a social services worker, but after a couple of years in the field, she needed a change and turned to construction.
While the work can be demanding at times, she enjoys the job—and the money. Although the industry is still male-dominated, she said women and youth who are considering a career in the industry shouldn’t be put off by stereotypes.
Tamara Baptiste, an architectural projects co-ordinator with The Regional Municipality of York, also points to multiple opportunities in different fields within the industry, including home inspection, safety, building science, sales and administration. She initially got into the industry via a friend who was a contractor.
Someone interested in construction owes it to themselves to investigate whether a job in the industry is a good fit for them, she said. “You won’t know until you try it out.”