On-Site Magazine

Managing worker mobility key to meeting BC construction needs

By Staff Report   

Construction Skills Development

Over the next decade or so, construction industry growth in British Columbia will be concentrated in utility and mining projects, mostly in the North. And all eyes will be on the potential for inter-provincial mobility to meet the demand for skilled trades.

“The question being asked is whether tradespeople from Southern BC will move to the work in the North and to what extent will their skills be portable to large industrial and engineering projects,” says Clyde Scollan, president of the Construction Labour Relations Association of BC.

It’s a question the just-released labour market forecast scenario published by the Construction Sector Council attempts to address with details on the supply and demand for more than 30 skilled trades and occupations over the next nine years.

Construction Looking Forward, British Columbia 2013-2021 says the number of resource projects expected over the next few years is larger than in previous years, and with the baby boom generation approaching retirement, meeting demand for some skilled trades at peak times will be a challenge.


The largest number of projects will get underway in 2014, and continue for three or four years afterward.

The mostly mining, pipeline, LNG terminals, electrical generation plants and transmission line projects translate into high demand for boilermakers, carpenters, contractors and supervisors, crane operators, insulators, ironworkers, sheet metal workers, steamfitters and pipefitters, and welders.

These trades will also be required for a long list of projects across Canada that build up through 2014 to 2015, and coincide with activity in British Columbia. Industry leaders are also looking at other provinces and industries to help balance requirements.

“Up-to-date labour market information is critical for managing skilled worker requirements regionally and nationally,” says Manley McLachlan, president-CEO of the British Columbia Construction Association.

“We must be as strategic in planning the development of our industry’s labour resources as we are in developing our country’s natural resources,” he adds.

“Industry leaders are also focusing on continued investment in apprenticeships and other types of training and support systems to keep pace with demand, as well as outreach to youth, women, Aboriginal people and immigrants” to address the replacement demand created by the retirement of an estimated 32,000 skilled tradespeople in British Columbia, says Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the British Columbia and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council.

Another key highlight of the scenario, which is almost unique to the province, is that the amount of housing-related work will continue to climb until 2017.

MJ Whitemarsh, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of British Columbia attributes increased residential construction to the province’s projected population growth and strong immigration record.

Each year, the CSC releases nine-year labour forecast scenarios following consultations with industry leaders, including owners, contractors and labour groups, as well as governments and educational institutions. The full national and regional reports will be available online at www.constructionforecasts.ca/products in March 2013.

Forecast scenario data is also available at www.constructionforecasts.ca.


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