Saskatchewan is leading other provinces in construction employment growth, and though it has attracted more new workers than most provinces, industry leaders say meeting labour needs over the next decade remains a challenge.
“We have to continue to attract a large, skilled workforce in Saskatchewan to meet market demand, and keeping them may be a challenge,” says Michael Fougere, president, Saskatchewan Construction Association. “We have been successful at drawing in workers from other sectors and provinces, but we will have to continue efforts to recruit and maintain skilled workers through apprenticeship, industry training and immigration.”
Fougere is responding to a just-released forecast of construction labour supply and demand published by the Construction Sector Council (CSC). The report says that since 2001, the construction workforce has expanded by almost 70 percent. Demand is projected to continue to grow over the next few years. “Our challenge going forward is that the same skilled trades are in demand at the same time for other resource projects across Canada.”
Construction Looking Forward, An Assessment of Construction Labour Markets from 2012 to 2020 for Saskatchewan says the strongest growth is due to the big mining and utility projects, but employment in all sectors will continue to increase. “Unlike most other provinces, new housing construction and renovation work will likely continue at a steady pace until 2020,” says Alan Thomarat, president, Canadian Home Builders Association of Saskatchewan. “There are concerns about the potential demand for skilled workers due to retirements and competition for labour from other provinces. The entire construction industry is taking a proactive approach to recruitment, retention, training and development.”
Since 2001, Saskatchewan’s labour force has increased from around 23,000 workers to an estimated 37,500 in 2011. Work on known major projects is expected to peak in 2013 and the workforce will decline to average 35,000 workers across the outlook period, well above historic levels.
“This is a new level of activity for our province. We have to ensure that we have the skilled workforce now and for the future,” says Terry Parker, Business Manager, Saskatchewan Provincial Building & Construction Trades Council, noting that as activity peaks, industry must focus on the potential loss of skilled workers expected to retire over the next decade. The CSC estimates that 6,600 workers may retire; 18 percent of the current workforce.
Each year, the CSC releases nine-year labour forecasts following consultations with industry leaders, including owners, contractors and labour groups, as well as governments and educational institutions.