Small Changes Make a Positive Impact During Canada’s Labour Shortage

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As a result of the growing commercial construction industry, the current labour shortage has proven to be one of the biggest challenges for many construction companies in the country. For the past 20 years, the Canadian workforce has continued to decline despite a short upward trend from 2015 to 2018. While there are some unknown factors, a notable reason for the decline is the retirement of the baby-boomer generation. As workers from this generation continue to retire, the task of filling labour force gaps will fall increasingly to a smaller pool of available younger workers. While the future of labour in construction seems bleak, there is still hope. Some suggestions for companies to make a positive difference in the country’s labour shortage are through new recruiting tactics, improving training practices, and simply taking better care of employees.


Over the coming decade, approximately 350,000 construction workers in onsite and offsite occupations are expected to retire. Paired with the diminishing number of younger workers in the construction industry, a unique solution is a must for recruiting new employees. It is up to construction companies throughout Canada to include traditionally underrepresented workers in recruitment and ongoing promotional efforts to encourage people to pursue a career path in construction. It’s time to focus more on what the person can bring to the job – experience, passion, knowledge, and the ability to be trained. One, two, or all of these can be trained upon or extracted to give the employee the tools needed for success.


Today, young adults are less likely to follow a career path in construction, thanks to a world dominated by technology. Many simply feel their prospects for high-paying jobs will result from a university or college degree. In addition, jobs in construction suffer many misconceptions, as today’s society tends to criticize careers in the trades. Those of us that are in the construction industry know that common misconceptions of the trades are completely untrue as safety regulations and new technologies have advanced drastically, and there is more focus on innovation than in previous years. When recruiting a younger workforce, companies need to express the need for problem-solvers and innovators to attract workers who want to make a difference. In addition, companies should also be cognizant of their current training practices and resources available for employees. In order to close the gaps left by the retirement of Baby Boomers, having a succession plan for positions anticipated to open in the near future is a must.


According to a study by the Business Development Bank of Canada, businesses that suffer from labour shortages grow more slowly. By offering specialized training to current employees, companies can show those that are looking for jobs that they care about employee success, not just profits. Offering more training can make your employees more efficient, which will result in company growth. Construction companies should begin by looking at current training practices and asking whether they are giving employees the necessary tools for success. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees whether they feel they received adequate training before or during a job. Requesting feedback shows that you care about employee perspectives and want to take their thoughts into account when making decisions.


If attracting new talent is a top priority, it is important to showcase that taking care of your employee’s wellbeing is a main concern. A good place to start is by exhibiting what your company has done to make your employees feel safe during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Robertson has implemented numerous safety protocols to ensure our employees feel safe in the workplace, such as increasing sanitization throughout our entire workspace, enforcing the use of face masks in the building, placing hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes at several stations throughout our offices, and more. In addition, we asked for feedback from our employees and implemented their suggestions for making our offices a safer place to work. Employee suggestions included installing shields in areas with high face-to-face contact and adding sign-in sheets for visitors who come into our offices.


The Canadian Labour Shortage has had major effects on the commercial construction industry. While the numbers seem daunting, there are small changes companies can make to improve the shortage over time. When searching for jobs, applicants want to know they are going to be given opportunities for growth and that they will be treated with dignity and respect. In turn, this will result in an improved workplace culture that will make new employees confident in their decision to work for you and your company.