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Labour shortage hampers B.C. construction industry amid high demand for work

Survey from Independent Contractors and Businesses Association finds 75% of companies are short-staffed
Demand for construction and skilled trades workers is higher than ever, but there aren’t enough workers to meet the demand. (Pixabay photo)

Nearly every industry is short-staffed these days and B.C.’s construction industry is no different.

A new survey from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) found that while 96 per cent of their member construction companies expect 2022 to be to be as busy or busier than 2021, 75 per cent can’t find enough workers to meet the demand.

“The shortage of workers is acute and impacting very part of our economy. In Canada, we have an aging population and not enough people entering the workforce,” said association president Chris Gardner. “The shortage of people combined with supply chain issues, means contractor margins are under enormous pressure. So while construction is busier, it’s much harder for contractors to maintain the same levels of profitability as in past years.”

Shortages in staff have forced companies to spend more time on recruitment, with 70 per cent of companies saying recruitment is a top priority. Companies are coping with the lack of staffing by turning down work, delaying project completion dates and increasing overtime pay. This all adds up to increases in construction costs.

“You can draw a direct line from labour shortages and longer project completion times to the affordability crisis in B.C.,” Gardner said.

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The shortage in workers is being felt across B.C., but is most acute on Vancouver Island where 84 per cent of companies are short workers. In the Lower Mainland, 76 per cent of companies are short-staffed, compared to 72 per cent in the Interior and 71 per cent in the North.

The trades in greatest demand include glaziers, masons, roofers, sprinkler fitters, plumbers, carpenters, pipefitters, refrigeration and HVAC mechanics.

Nearly 250,000 people are currently employed in construction-related jobs across the province. ICBA’s survey found average trade wages are expected to increase by 5.4 per cent this year for an average of $32.62 an hour.

Gardner said it’s an excellent time for people to consider a career in the trades, but noted waitlists in training and educational programs have hampered the industry’s ability to bring on new hires.

“We need more training spaces. Waitlists are chronic – it should not take nearly a decade to get a red seal designation in the construction trades. And, it makes no sense that for many trades there is only one school in the entire province.”

He called on all levels of government to “set the table” for investments and opportunities to help the construction industry.

“There’s definitely no shortage of work ahead.”


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