By Cindy McKay
The outlook is bright when it comes to Manitoba’s construction industry according to executive director, Mike Moore, of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association. Forecasts from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Statistics Canada estimate the population of Manitoba will increase by 180,000 people by the year 2025. In order to accommodate this growth, an estimated 80,000 new residences need to be built.
Currently, there are more than 24,000 workers in the construction industry. As 6,700 of the current workforce is entering retirement age, Moore estimates that there will be about 6,000 vacancies in the next few years and that 9,100 additional workers will be needed to meet the future employment demand. This could leave the industry with a shortfall of 10,000 workers across the construction industry. Carpenters, electricians, gas fitters, managers and supervisors, floor coverers, painters, plumbers, installers, renovators and roofers are all critical to the residential housing industry. If the labour shortages are not addressed, projects will be delayed and consumers will have to wait longer for new homes and renovations.
Overseas recruitment is already underway in Ireland and Spain where unemployment rates are high. The industry has attracted a strong contingent of workers from the Philippines, Italy, Ukraine and Portugal.
“It’s a great job with solid wages, steady work and you can take vacation time according to your schedule rather than, say, that of a teacher,” says Moore. “Every builder has crews to do the job and there is a lot of opportunity for young people to have freedom and stability of work. There is lots of opportunity to form a crew of your own or be a boss.”
Moore says that traditionally employers look to young people to fill these positions, they can make a good living in nearly every sector of the construction industry. Women also work in nearly every trade sector from heavy equipment operators to electricians.
“Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer. We need to educate the public to realize that the trades provide a good life and a lucrative living can be made. We need to do a better job within the schools to tell kids how exciting the construction industry is,” Moore says. “There are technical vocational schools that implement trade programs. Post-secondary options are found at Red River Community College and Winnipeg Tech College, but part of the problem is that we don’t have enough training spots and we need to provide more opportunities. Some trades have two and three year waiting lists.”
Moore says that the demand for skilled tradesmen lies not only in new construction but also in the renovation field where there is a wide range of work.
“Winnipeg has the third oldest housing stock in Canada, next to Montreal and Halifax,” he points out. “Winnipeggers who move away often want to move back to the same community they lived in so their kids can go to the same school and experience the same neighbourhood. They can’t always build a new house in that area, so renovations are the answer.”
The Manitoba government has launched a marketing campaign promoting apprenticeship programs in the trades. Moore hopes this will raise the profile of the occupations and entice people to look into the opportunities.
“The best way to know if you will like the work is to come in as a helper and see what interests you. You will gain a sense of the many opportunities available. There are many sectors of the industry to choose from,” says Moore.
“Unlike university, where you pay to discover this information, you will get paid during this learning opportunity.”