Alberta and British Columbia are expected to lead Canada in the creation of new construction jobs over the next 10 years, as national economic activity continues to shift to the west.
"While Alberta’s construction industry has adapted well to conditions to date, there may be recruiting challenges,” said Rosemary Sparks, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “There is stiff competition for skilled labour in other provinces, and meeting local needs won’t be easy. As retirements rise, we are also facing the potential loss of thousands of skilled and experienced workers.”
BuildForce recently released a report which predicts Alberta’s construction industry will lead Canada in employment growth between 2014 and 2023.
“We have a challenge with labour to begin with. We have a challenge in capacity for companies that need to do this work and build these plants, as they come to fruition,” said Coleman.
“That is our single biggest challenge and the one thing that does keep me awake at night, as I try to build this relationship with the industry and make sure we are competitive.”
Labour leaders expressed concern about the recently released budget’s failure to deliver the investment in trades training that is needed to meet this challenge.
“The most disappointing thing about Budget 2014 is that there is no new money for skilled trades to be found,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council.
“The provincial government needs to step up to the plate and make sure there is a provision in provincial contracts for first year apprentices, so that they can crew these jobs, LNG or otherwise, that may start in 2017, as third year apprentices.”
Finance Minister Mike de Jong presented the 2014 budget in Victoria on Feb. 18, which makes cuts to capital spending after this year, in order to generate a surplus in the next three fiscal years.
However, the budget maintains public investment in priority areas.
For example, the budget provides $2.3 billion in capital spending over the next three years for post-secondary institutions.
These funds will be used for the replacement and renewal of existing infrastructure, as well as address deferred maintenance.
According to Sigurdson, the government needs to have a more realistic update or outlook for LNG in the province.
He said the government should determine what skills are required for one plant because there is no guarantee that several proposed projects will be built.
In addition, he said the building trades should not have any problems crewing one project and bringing in a number of apprentices.
The main risk is that if the required trades were trained for all the projects that might proceed, it could turn out that a lot of skilled trades will be unemployed.
“We never train to peaks. We always train to a plateau because we know the troughs are very deep,” said Sigurdson.
“That is why we are a mobile workforce.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark invited building trades unions to join a committee in September 2013, which will facilitate the supply of skilled labour for the construction of a LNG industry.
B.C. Building Trades invest more than $13 million annually in apprenticeship training.
With more than 5,000 apprentices in their programs, the B.C. Building Trades is the largest single sponsor of apprenticeships in B.C.
It boasts an average completion rate of 85 per cent.
“The B.C. Building Trades has been working with the government and industry stakeholders to prepare for the upcoming boom in LNG related construction,” said Sigurdson.
“We’re prepared to double our training capacity if the funding and market conditions are in place.”