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Is There a Need for Construction Workers in Canada?

Construction Workers working together
Construction Workers working together

Is There a Need for Construction Workers in Canada?

Information and news on the construction sectorIs There a Need for Construction Workers in Canada?

The Canadian construction industry is facing an acute shortage of skilled labor, which is expected to worsen in the coming years. This shortage is primarily driven by an aging workforce, with a significant number of workers nearing retirement age, and a lack of younger workers entering the industry. 

To address this challenge, the many Canadian construction associations are increasingly turning to skilled foreign workers to fill the gap. However, current immigration policies and programs may need to be revised to better meet the industry's needs.

What Is the Current State of Canada's Construction Industry?

Construction Workers working together 

Demand for Jobs in the Building Sector Is High

According to BuildForce Canada, a national organization dedicated to the development of a highly-skilled construction workforce, the industry is expected to need more than 309,000 new workers by 2030 to replace retirees and keep pace with demand. Despite this, the industry may face a shortage of as many as 81,000 workers by the end of the decade.

Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada, emphasizes the urgency of the situation, stating: "Canada's construction outlook is strong for 2021 and well into the middle portion of the decade thanks to gains in the residential and non-residential sectors. And while we forecast growth to slow over the later years of our forecast period, we nonetheless expect that the industry will be challenged to recruit more than 309,000 new workers to replace retirees and keep pace with demand."

It is estimated that there will be 4,500 unfilled jobs in the residential construction industry in B.C. in 2024, according to the Canadian Builders Association of BC (CHBA BC). These labour shortages may cause a delay in projects and could increase building costs and housing prices

The need for skilled foreign workers is particularly acute in certain regions, such as British Columbia, where roughly a quarter of the labor shortage is expected to occur. In an interview with Business In Vancouver, Jordana Lloyd, project manager with ACE Plumbing and Heating, highlighted the critical role of foreign workers, saying:

"Right now, anyone with actual experience is so, so helpful to our business. When it's so busy like this, man – anyone with any skills is so valued.

Companies Call for Easing of Immigration Program Criteria

To address the labor shortage, industry leaders and experts and construction companies in Canada are calling for changes to immigration policies and programs to better facilitate the entry of skilled foreign workers into the construction sector.

Neil Moody, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders' Association of British Columbia (CHBA BC), argues that the current immigration requirements are too rigid and do not adequately address the industry's needs. He suggests:

"Maybe it's looking at countries with relatively young populations – whether it's India, the Philippines, Jamaica, Ireland or Latin America – and matching the skills and allowing them to come in to fulfill the needs."

Moody also highlights the challenges posed by the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which he describes as "cumbersome," making it difficult for small and medium-sized companies to utilize.

Trevor Koot, CEO of the British Columbia Real Estate Association, echoes the need for more flexible immigration requirements to address the skills gap, stating:

"And to give a little bit more flexibility on requirements like the language requirements, because to offer the skills that are required to build a home are far more important than somebody having a dual language or English language proficiency."

The report by BuildForce Canada also emphasizes the importance of leveraging new Canadians to meet the anticipated labor market requirements in the construction industry.

There are to be 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada this year, 411,000 next year, and 421,000 in 2023.

Earlier this year, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said he’s confident Ottawa will be able to hit those targets.

“When I tabled the immigration plan a little while ago, we could have put a pause, we could have reversed, we could have cut immigration but I believe, I firmly believe and our government believes that through immigration we will continue to grow,” he said.

Through its two-tier immigration system, Canada allows foreign nationals to gain their permanent residency through the federal Express Entry system’s Federal Skilled Worker  (FSW) program, Federal Skilled Trade (FST) program and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), as well as the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) of the 10 Canadian provinces.

Under the Express Entry system, immigrants can apply for permanent residency online and their profiles then are ranked against each other according to a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking Systems (CRS). The highest-ranked candidates will be considered for an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. Those receiving an ITA must quickly submit a full application and pay processing fees, within a delay of 60-days.

Benefits of Skilled Foreign Workers

Construction Workers working together 

Skilled foreign workers can provide numerous benefits to the Canadian construction industry, including:

  1. Meeting Labor Shortages: Foreign workers can help fill the gap in skilled labour, as they often possess the skills and experience that are in high demand in the industry.

  2. Diversity of Skills: Foreign workers bring a diverse range of skills and experiences, which can improve the quality of work and increase efficiency on construction sites.

  3. Economic Boost: The presence of foreign workers in the construction industry contributes to the workforce and pays taxes, providing a boost to the Canadian economy.

  4. Knowledge Transfer: Foreign workers can introduce new ideas and approaches, helping to improve the overall level of knowledge and expertise in the industry.

The challenges of the Canadian Construction Industry

Construction Workers working together 

Industry leaders and experts are calling for more flexible immigration requirements, such as easing language proficiency criteria and focusing on matching skills to specific industry needs. By addressing these issues, the construction industry can better access the pool of skilled foreign workers and meet the growing demand for labor, while also benefiting from the diverse skills, experiences, and knowledge that these workers bring.

Ultimately, addressing the labour shortage in the Canadian construction industry will require a collaborative effort between the industry, government, and immigration authorities to develop policies and programs that effectively meet the industry's needs while supporting economic growth and development.

Want to learn more about the state of the Canadian construction industry? Check out our articles:

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Last modified 2024-05-31

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