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

Iconic white raven returns to Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Photographer John Domovich: ‘It blew me away when I first observed it’

Parksville’s Summer by the Sea event starts June 30

‘We are looking forward to providing a vibrant market’

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

Qualicum Beach man arrested over racist incident at Tseshaht First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP said the man turned himself in

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Parcel stolen from front porch, Nanaimo RCMP looking for suspect

Unidentified woman allegedly stole package containing $400 smart watch

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Most Read