Mary Van Buren
President, Canadian Construction Association
Canada’s construction industry has a significant role in supporting the nation’s growth plan and needs to secure a talent pipeline to ensure the country stays on track.
Infrastructure connects. It connects you to health care, education, the marketplace, the workplace, and the community. It can also connect you to a well-paid career with a secure future.
It’s a boom year for Canada’s construction industry, with major spending announcements being made by governments on infrastructure and innovation. New highway and light rail developments, climate resilience retrofits, and vital maintenance projects are underway as part of the nation’s growth plan.
The industry, and most importantly, its people, have a big role to play in ensuring the country stays on track.
The industry is struggling to fill 85,000 open jobs in construction because of baby boomer retirements, pandemic aftershocks, and, quite simply, a public misconception about careers in construction. This needs to change.
It’s a matter of perception
For decades, kids have been steered away from the trades and encouraged to pursue a “profession.” This bias can also be seen in our immigration system, with more points awarded to applicants with higher education levels. Some trades are not even recognized as a category in the points system. Construction is often seen as a blue-collar job with low pay and limited opportunity. This is simply not the case.
The industry is working on changing this perception. Talent Fits Here is a national public awareness campaign to inspire a new generation of workers to join the industry. Construction provides well-paying and rewarding jobs with diverse options and a path to growth.
Today’s construction leaders welcome tech adoption and alternative methods of project management and delivery. They are also looking to employ a labour force that has been historically underrepresented — women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities. We are also actively seeking out immigrants and temporary foreign workers as a way to alleviate retirements and an ongoing skills shortage that will result in over 300,000 jobs needing to be filled by 2028. These individuals will help drive diversity, inclusion, creativity, and innovation in the sector.
There are 85,000 open jobs in construction that the industry is struggling to fill because of baby boomer retirements, pandemic aftershocks, and, quite simply, a public misconception about careers in construction.
Long-term plan needed
As the industry’s national advocate, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has been advocating for a long-term plan for sustainable infrastructure investment. Not only do we have to repair, maintain, and retrofit infrastructure built in the ’60s, but we must also build for the future — keeping climate resilience, innovation, and economic growth in mind. More consultation and early engagement with provinces, municipalities, Indigenous groups, and industry stakeholders also need to happen. Doing so would go a long way in addressing our immediate and future infrastructure needs — and developing the workforce we need to get to where we want to be.
Skilled tradespeople cannot be created overnight. The industry has partnered with the federal government on the Canadian Apprentice Service program to provide financial incentives to employers hiring apprentices to work in 39 in-demand Red Seal trades. We need initiatives like this and immigration policy changes to build a pipeline of skilled, unskilled, and professional talent. All these workers are needed in construction, and Canada’s future growth depends on its ability to attract, develop, and retain top talent.
Construction will continue to be an essential sector driving Canada’s future economy, creating jobs, and connecting communities and countries. By leveraging the best minds, training and upskilling workers, and integrating new tools and technologies, we can deliver a better future through infrastructure.