B.C.’s skilled labour pains about to become acute. Can the province find the 14,000 skilled labourers needed to build major infrastructure?
Starting this year, thousands of skilled labourers and tradespeople will be needed in B.C. for a handful of multibillion-dollar construction projects that will be underway — provided they don’t get halted by the courts.
Over the next two years, depending on when the various construction schedules peak, an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 workers will be needed in B.C. for three major projects: Site C dam, LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink pipeline. If the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion ever restarts, the number would rise to around 15,000.
That’s not including all the other projects that could also be underway, including Woodfibre LNG, construction of the new Pattullo Bridge, the Millennium Line Broadway Extension and expansions to ports and the Vancouver International Airport.
Construction industry organization BuildForce Canada has estimated 17,000 non-residential construction jobs could be needed in B.C. between 2019 and 2021, if all the major projects proposed — including Trans Mountain — were to move ahead on schedule.
The $10.7 billion Site C dam project employed 3,746 people at peak construction in September 2018 — a number that is expected to increase to more than 4,000 in 2019 and 2020.
In 2021, at peak construction, the $40 billion LNG Canada project and associated Coastal GasLink pipeline will directly employ 7,000 labourers and skilled tradespeople, according to Tracey MacKinnon, workforce development manager for LNG Canada.
The bulk of construction hiring is expected to start in mid-2020 and ramp up to peak construction in 2021, with 4,000 to 4,500 workers needed for the LNG Canada project in Kitimat, and another 2,000 to 2,500 for the associated Coastal GasLink project.
While high employment is a good problem for an economy to have, big construction projects can also have an effect on industries with a more permanent workforce that requires some of the same skills that are needed in large construction projects.
Seaspan Shipyards, which already employs 2,300 welders, pipefitters and other skilled trades workers, will need a few hundred more over the next two years, thanks to a recent contract to refit the Canadian Coast Guard’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
Seaspan works with trades programs at post-secondary institutes and colleges like the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and Camosun College to provide the skills training it needs. About half of B.C.’s construction trades workers are BCIT graduates. About 1,200 apprentices in the trades graduate from BCIT each year. But many of the graduates are replacing workers who are retiring.
BuildForce has estimated that large projects in B.C. would require 14,200 workers between 2018 and 2022, but that as many as 8,700 could retire over that same time period.
BCIT and other colleges aren’t the only institutes that offer skilled trades training. BC Building Trades also offers training programs. It graduates about 700 workers with Red Seal certification each year.
BC Hydro also has its own training centre in Surrey and spends $20 million a year on trades instruction. Every year, the utility hires 400 apprentices, pre–apprentices, co-op students and technologist and engineering trainees to work on projects.
SOURCE: Online Post: January 23, 2019 – Glacier Media [Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver]