VANCOUVER ISLAND – When you’re facing a labour crisis like the construction industry is currently navigating, any positive news is welcome.
According to BC’s Labour Statistics, the construction industry added 4,1001 jobs in the month of January. While those numbers might not jump off the page, all wins should be celebrated, regardless of significance. Yet, when considering that BC will have to fill over 27,6002 over the next four years, the 4,100 jobs underlines how the status-quo won’t solve BC construction’s labour deficit.
In 2012, the BC construction labour force was approximately 195,000 while investment in construction was approximately close to $20B. In 2022 that investment was nearly doubled and yet our labour force, according to a recent BuildForce labour report, was not much higher at 197,400. It is certainly clear that we are doing much more with fewer people.
Construction has always been a highly competitive industry, when you compare that with the dwindling labour pool, we’re witnessing a time where companies are overextending themselves to retain employees, talent is sold to the highest bidder, and any company continuity is lost when workers will walk away for a dollar or more an hour. This current trajectory is unsustainable.
Interprovincial migration is one solution, but with the sky-rocketing cost of living on Vancouver Island many would-be residents might take a second thought about settling here. Alternatively, there will always be a stream of local tradespeople coming into the industry, but as other industries continue to compete for labour that stream could dry up as other careers appear more accessible.
Where we as an industry must continue to invest in Indigenous peoples, women, and immigrants. These historically overlooked demographics will be a major factor in solving the labour crisis. Based on the latest research from BuildForce Canada, the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada and has a higher propensity to choose the construction industry as a career choice. Referencing the 2016 Census, an estimated 7.6 per cent of non-Indigenous Canadians were employed in the construction industry, compared to 9.6 per cent for the Indigenous population3.
We are continuing to see trends for women entering the trades growing. According to BCCA’s Spring 2022 Stat Pack, only about six per cent of women are employed in the different trades across the province. Women have not only proven that they are capable, but have also demonstrated exceptional ability, motivation and passion and can be extremely effective and competent within any tradecraft our industry offers.
Immigration is also a key element to keep up with demand. As many know, this process is both timely and costly and may not be a viable solution for a smaller company. The bureaucratic hurdles alone can be so daunting that companies elect to not pursue such efforts. We continue to advocate for efficient and effective immigration policies that allow all immigrant workers to access our local labour markets.
The construction industry offers something which very few industries can provide: a stable, well-paying vocation with plenty of upward mobility. For those involved in construction, the pasture is ripe for harvest, but we need the people to do this. The reality is that it will be a challenge. As the sector has demonstrated over the past few years, it is resilient, creative, and eager to meet challenges face on.
The Vancouver Island Construction Association will be discussing labour issues, plus other topics pertaining to the industry its April 14th Vancouver Island Construction Conference. For more information and registration visit www.vicaconference.ca
1BC Stats, Labour Market Statistics, January 2023, Issue #12-01 (2023)
2 BC Construction Association 2022 Fall Stat Pack (2022)
3 BuildForce Canada, Representation of Indigenous Canadians and Women in Canada’s Construction and Maintenance Workforce (2018)