Canada: Must Address Worker Shortfall

Kevin Doyle, Construction Digital, May 10, 2010

Regina businessman Wayne Morsky, now serving a one-year term as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Construction Association, is sounding the alarm for the need to address a growing shortfall in construction workers across Canada.

As a large number of workers approach retirement age, fewer are entering construction and the ancillary specialty trades. Construction Digital often speaks with companies that have implemented innovative in-house solutions such as mentoring programs designed to allow young workers to work with and be trained by one nearing retirement.

However, that won’t address the big picture as Morsky says Canada will need more than 300,000 new construction workers within seven years. He said the active recruitment of young people–particularly young aboriginal people–should be a big part of the solution to finding new workers to fill vacancies and to replace retirees.

“In Saskatchewan, we are looking at a (construction) worker shortfall of more than 6,200 employees,” Morsky told the spring meeting of the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association. “We must enhance the industry’s efforts in promoting careers in construction to our youth, particularly to Canada’s First Nations, where the median age is 27.”

“Aboriginal Canadians have been part of the strong and proud history of this industry and we must find a way to get them re-engaged in construction if we are to meet the future labour challenges,” he said.

Immigration of skilled workers could be another part of the solution, Morsky said. However, he said Canada’s immigration system “is no longer construction-friendly and does not appear to be headed for significant retooling in the near future.”

MORE IMMEDIATE CONCERNS

Morsky mentioned there is serious concern that government support for infrastructure projects will be reduced as the economy improves and as efforts to control budget deficits intensify. Canada faces an infrastructure deficit (of repairs or new construction that needs to be done) which some people believe could be in excess of $200 billion, Morsky said.

He warned that a decision to cut back public funding on road, water, sewer, bridge and other infrastructure projects as the economy improves would be a repeat of mistakes made in the past that have created the existing infrastructure problems.

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