Alberta changes approach as worker shortage intensifies

With a recovering economy and high demand for construction, Alberta is facing a significant worker deficit

Alberta construction

Crews work on a road project in Alberta. – Province of Alberta

Key Takeaways:

  • Alberta is changing its policy to increase opportunities for skilled newcomers with family in the province. 
  • The province has 100,000 job openings in the province across all sectors.
  • The Calgary Construction association estimates there are between 3,000 to 4,000 construction job vacancies in the Calgary region alone. 

The Whole Story:

Alberta officials say the biggest issue hindering further economic growth is a shortage of labour. To address this, the province announced changes to Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) that will increase opportunities for international, high-demand workers with close relatives in Alberta to fill those vacancies.

AAIP is an economic immigration program that enables Alberta to nominate qualified workers for permanent residency. 

Officials explained that If newcomers have an established support system already in place when they accept a job in the province, they are more likely to have an easier transition to a new culture and community. In addition to making the integration into Alberta life easier, it also helps retain these workers over the longer term. 

Industry experts predict that Alberta will experience skilled worker shortages into 2025 due to industry growth and retiring workers. Currently, Alberta has 100,000 job openings in the province across all sectors. In-demand sectors include healthcare, construction, education, technology and engineering.

The announcement comes as Calgary’s construction industry is raising concerns about the region’s shortage of skilled construction workers. The Calgary Construction Association (CCA) that despite a growing demand for new homes and construction projects, both commercial and residential builders are struggling to find enough workers to keep up with the pace of development.

The shortage is being attributed to several factors, including strong demand for record migration to the region, an aging workforce, and a lack of young people entering the industry. Many experienced construction workers have also retired or left the industry, leaving a gap in the labour market.

“This is an issue that we have been bracing for, over recent years, if not decades,” said Bill Black, CCA president. “Our concern is that this year and in the near future, the skilled worker shortage will become a key issue.”

The association estimates that there are between 3,000 to 4,000 construction job vacancies in the Calgary region alone. Nationally, the number of construction job vacancies is estimated at 93,000.

“This is a problem that not only affects Calgary and Alberta but Canada as a whole,” said Black. “The Calgary region isn’t just competing with the rest of Alberta for talent, but the entire Country.”

The association explained that the lack of workers impacts the completion schedules of new homes and infrastructure projects, which drives up costs for builders, consumers, and owners.

Black added that construction employers are stepping up to the challenge on an industry scale, but despite this, the situation is expected to worsen unless significant steps are taken to address the shortage of construction workers. The association believes that the shortage is indicative of a societal problem that requires action from all levels of government, the educational sector, in addition to the industry itself.

The CCA said that possible solutions include revising outdated accreditation recognition for newcomers coming to Canada to seek and place high-value-specific skills that are transferable to construction. This means a rework of the immigration points system favour such skills and experience.

The association also noted that the school system needs to reverse a trend over recent years that has reduced junior high and high school student exposure to the trades, and greater funding for post-secondary institutions like the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) which have the mandate to train the next generation of Alberta’s skilled trades.

In addition to being a key resource to society in building and servicing the communities that we live in, the construction industry offers significant opportunities and long-term career prospects for those who chose this path including low entry cost of education, good compensation, and entrepreneurial opportunities for those who aspire to be a business owner.

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