Skilled labour in tight supply

By Geoff Lee

January 24, 2018 12:35 PM

File Photo

A looming shortage of labour in Alberta could throw a wrench into business activities for the construction industry including the Lloydminster area.
That was the message that Stan Bugiera, an apprenticeship and industry training officer with Alberta’s Advanced Education ministry presented to delegates at the 2018 Connecting With Opportunities Forum held at the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds on Jan. 18.
Bugiera told the forum that the industry in Alberta will shrink in the next decade with about 36,200 expected retirees and a potential decline in young people to fill the labour gap.
“This is leading to a real crunch coming down the pipe for employers in the construction trade,” said Bugiera who is heavy duty mechanic.
He said currently there are 251,000 construction workers in Alberta, down about 8 per cent from 2015 with a higher unemployment rate as well.
“When the economy does start to rebound, there’s going to be a labour shortage crunch and some employers are starting to see it already,” said Bugiera.
He said workers have left the province and some local companies have trouble bidding on projects because their workforce is depleted.
Previously, he said employers would recruit foreign workers, but with the decline in the economy governments are limiting the immigration of foreign workers.
The solution he says is to get more women and Indigenous workers into the trades.
He said Alberta has about 57,000 apprentices as of 2016, but only about 5,700 of those are women and 2,900 are Indigenous apprentices.
“We all have to do a better job of presenting the facts to our young people that trades are very viable career option,” he said.
Bugiera said the statistics may help with developing a strategy for recruitment to resolve the labour shortage already faced by some construction companies in Lloydminster.
“We’re starting to see a lot of employers that are struggling to find good workers and skilled labours,” he said.
That’s the situation at Cooper Concrete in Lloydminster, according to owner John Winter, vice-president of the Lloydminster Construction Association that hosted the forum.
“In my industry, it’s not a shortage of labour; it’s a shortage of skilled labour,” he said.
Winter noted his company is a proud supporter of the Alberta apprenticeship program and says probably 60 per of his workers are journeymen carpenters.
“We need to keep the apprenticeship trade going and hopefully, people see the value in it as well,” he said.
Winter introduced Bugiera as committee member of the LCA-sponsored Try-A-Trade show that aims to get area students to consider career paths to the trades.
The the ninth annual event will be held May 2 at the exhibition grounds.

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