Canadian Consulting Engineer

Construction worker shortage bothers big industry

Concerned about pending shortages in the skilled construction trades, a group of mostly large industrial companies and utilities have formulated a national strategy for 2011 to 2016 on how to attract new workers into the construction field.

July 12, 2011   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Concerned about pending shortages in the skilled construction trades, a group of mostly large industrial companies and utilities have formulated a national strategy for 2011 to 2016 on how to attract new workers into the construction field.

The strategy, “Meeting Construction and Maintenance Workforce Challenges: Construction Owners Strategy, 2011 to 2016,” published under the auspices of the Construction Sector Council, is the result of a meeting in 2010. The meeting involved utilities such as B.C. Hydro and Ontario Hydro, as well as oil sands players such as Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Irving Oil, Nalcor, Shell, Suncor and Syncrude.

The group say that the construction labour market is “especially critical because major projects, including sustaining capital projects, maintenance and shutdown work in the industrial, utilities and public infrastructure sectors, are under particular pressure to deliver on schedule and on budget.” Therefore, they say, obtaining an optimal supply of skilled trades in the short, medium and long-term is “of paramount importance.”

Steve Williams, chief operating officer of Suncor Energy, said “We saw in [the]  period up to 2008 how a shortage of skilled labour could negatively impact our work, delay projects, and increase costs. And, we saw how little any one company or organization could do about it… As construction owners, we decided to band together and commit to work with contractors, labour groups, government, educators and trainers to address these workforce challenges.”

The strategies they came up with include educating youth, training for unemployed Canadians, retaining older workers, and using temporary foreign workers in the short term.

The Construction Sector Council forecasts a need for 300,000 new construction workers — approximately 25% of the industry’s current workforce — by 2019.

To see the owner group’s report, ” click here.


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