Condominium construction in Greater Victoria, one of the urban areas where builders are looking for more carpenters, concrete finishers and other skilled trades. (Black Press files)

Skilled worker shortage hangs over B.C. industrial growth

Construction, forest industry struggle to hold workforce

The B.C. government’s agenda for 2019 touts its strategies for generating more construction, sawmill and natural gas industry jobs, but employers are wondering where the skilled workers are going to come from.

After this week’s throne speech to start the legislature session, Premier John Horgan acknowledged that a skills shortage is the most common issue he hears about in meetings with employers. The speech repeats the NDP government’s commitment to more skills training, the details of which will be seen in Finance Minister Carole James’ next budget on Feb. 19.

“Talking to employers, I hear over and over again, the biggest challenge they have is recruiting and retaining skilled workers, or recruiting and retaining any workers that they can provide training for,” Horgan said.

Housing and other construction have been booming in urban B.C., and more growth is expected this year, according to the Independent Contractors and Business Association’s 2019 wage and benefits survey, released Wednesday in Vancouver.

RELATED: Union construction doesn’t raise costs, B.C. Building Trades says

RELATED: Horgan vows to keep more logs in B.C. for sawmills

ICBA president Chris Gardner says more than half of companies surveyed expect to grow by 24 per cent on average this year. But in skilled trades such as carpenters, sheet metal workers, sprinkler fitters and concrete finishers, nearly 80 per cent of companies say they can’t hire enough people.

“Skills shortages have eased a little, particularly in the North, but with nearly 60 per cent of companies saying they are turning down work, the pressure remains acute,” Gardner said.

The survey included 1,000 companies in November 2018. It finds that wage growth is accelerating, with four per cent annual increases expected to reach 5.3 per cent in 2020, and average wages above $30 an hour.

The ICBA is taking court action against the NDP government’s new “community benefits agreement” for public construction, which restricts highway and bridge work to 19 selected trade unions, mostly headquartered in the U.S. Gardner said 85 per cent of companies in B.C. are shut out of taxpayer-funded work.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Kelowna reopens beach volleyball, new pickleball courts

The City of West Kelowna is asking residents to maintain safe distancing

RDCO announces spring poetry contest winners

The district received 70 poems starting from May 1

City prepares for high water at Mission Creek

Property owners are being advised to prepare for flooding

Mother duck and babies rescued from Highway 97 in Lake Country

The mother and nine ducklings were taken to Duck Lake

Non-food vendors coming back to Kelowna farmers’ market this weekend

The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market is welcoming back several artisans on Saturday

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Parts of the TCT through Princeton will open to motorized vehicles Monday

Parts of the KVR trail through Princeton will open for motorized vehicles… Continue reading

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

North Okanagan farmers’ markets excited to welcome artisans back amid COVID-19

Provincial health officer announced non-food items to return to markets this weekend

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Chef brings farm-to-table approach to new Shuswap restaurant

Darren Bezanson opening Bistro 1460 at Hilltop Inn

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Most Read