A Diverse Workforce: The New Norm for Construction Companies
Immigration is pivotal to economic growth and the successful future of your company because it is a new source of labour.
As an HR specialist, employment sector advisor, technical adult educator, and former Red Seal tradesperson, I’ve watched the construction industry expand and innovate over several decades. We’ve seen a modernization of safety procedures; automation and technological innovation; the emergence of turnkey and specialist delivery models; new approaches to contract development, procurement, mergers, acquisitions; and progress in standardizing how we educate and license the skilled trades and specialist professions associated with the construction industry.
I predict the next big ‘ah ha’ moment for our industry will be our embracement, evaluation, and integration of a more diverse workforce especially the skilled newcomer talent landing in Canada daily. With the current labour shortage and over 155,0001 retirements expected for construction across Canada by 2027, our collective success will rest on how we attract and maintain new sources of skilled labour.
I suggest immigration is pivotal to economic growth and the successful future of your company because it is a new source of labour. The older worker exodus will continue until at least the end of this decade; the supply of workers to the industry cannot be filled by those already in Canada; so, it is inevitable that your search for skilled workers will intensify. Smart construction employers will welcome alternate and highly qualified labour sources to meet their needs.
I am not alone in my thinking; the Conference Board of Canada published a report on the economic case for immigration called Building on COVID-Period Immigration Levels, The Economic Case2. Key findings highlight how Canada needs immigrants to fill vacancies that require a wide range of education and skill levels; and a more targeted focus on labour market needs, housing availability, and a wider (geographic) dispersion of newcomers, which will help us create better integration outcomes and boost GDP per capita.
A later Conference Board of Canada report published in October 2021 called: Essential Work – The Current and Future Role of (Im)migrant Talent3 features some solid recommendations including:
- Effective and rapid credential recognition, along with inclusive employer practices that recognize the value of international work experience, would help fill essential vacancies with the right talent.
- Labour market-driven programs such as the Provincial Nominee Program could increase the degree of match between immigrants’ skills and expertise and employer demand.
You have also got supports in local programs including BC Construction Association’s STEP, Trades Training Fund, Integrating Newcomers, Connect, Builders Code, and the resources offered by your local construction associations, such as VRCA, NRCA, SICA, and VICA.
It is true, a diverse workforce will soon be the new norm and the next solution for you to grow your business. The good news is you don’t have to figure this out alone. We are here to help.
1 Source: Forecast Summary Reports – Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward – An Assessment of Construction Labour Markets from 2022 to 2027. By BuildForce Canada. Published Mar. 2022.
2 Source: Building on COVID-Period Immigration Levels, The Economic Case. By The Conference Board of Canada. Published July 2021.
3 Source: Essential Work – The Current and Future Role of (Im)migrant Talent. By The Conference Board of Canada. Published October 2021
About the authors
This article was researched and written by Louise Nichol who holds the title of Skills Assessor with BCCA-Integrating Newcomers, a government-funded, Canada-wide, pre-arrival career advice and employment coaching service for high skilled construction professionals approved for immigration to Canada. The article was edited by Linda Ryan, National Program Manager with BCCA-Integrating Newcomers.
Funded by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the program is hosted by BC Construction Association under its workforce development stream. The BCCA-IN team helps connect high skilled construction newcomers with employers. It is a free, pre-arrival, nationwide service, and occupations supported include the skilled trades, licensed technical professions (e.g., engineer, architect, quantity surveyors, H&S, etc.), and a wide variety of strategic business disciplines.