The current Ontario construction worker shortage has peaked at 72,000 missing personnel, according to GTA Homes blog Realinsights.

While the labour shortage within this sector – in combination with a booming housing and infrastructure demand – is nation-wide, the effects of the same are being felt by each individual province; Ontario’s dire need to recruit the aforementioned number of construction workers by 2027 is a prime example of this phenomenon.

Ontario’s construction worker shortage is primarily being contributed to by a high retirement rate within the industry.

According to a BuildForce Canada report, in fact, upwards of 80,000 Ontario construction workers are to retire in the next decade. However, while a vacuum is created by worker exit, there is not enough inflow to fill it.

Last month’s StatsCan labour survey unearthed the fact that Canada construction saw a loss of 45,000 jobs in July – a 2.8 percent from the month before that. Since January 2023, construction employment decreased by 71,000.

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If the shortage continues, the report postulates that roughly 118,900 construction positions will be left vacant by 2033. CIBC Chief Economist Benjamin Tal estimates 300,000 workers to be retiring in Canada over that time.

The province’s desperation to change the course of this trend is evident in the fact that its government was announced to be investing $3.6 million to support three innovative projects to assist 2,200 women and young people across Ontario prepare for “meaningful and well-paying careers” in construction.

“Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government will continue to invest in training programs that spread life-changing opportunity to anyone who wants a hand up to a bigger paycheque and a better life,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

“We are proud to support these new projects that help women and young people enter the trades and find purpose-driven careers.”

MPP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore Christine Hogarth additionally said that “Our province – and my Riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore – are facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to managing the significant economic and population growth most experts expect for Ontario in the years to come. Chief among them are the housing crisis and a corresponding shortage of skilled labour.”

The housing crisis’ increasing urgency is also reflected in the fact that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has cited in June that the country needs 5.8 million new homes to restore housing affordability. If the current rates of new construction projects continue, Canada’s housing supply could increase to 2.3 million units by 2030.

However, to achieve affordability, the CMHC estimates that 3.5 million more homes are needed. While Doug Ford has set forth ambitious plans to construct 1.5 million homes in the next decade, the mass retirement and its resultant labour shortage may complicate this aim.

To fix that, Ontario has extended additional goals. For example, one of its key strategies is allowing high school students to access training and certification programs. The government has allowed trade recruiters go to high schools and expose students to the “opportunities and benefits of pursuing a career in the trades” early on. Rules regarding the age high school students can start an apprenticeship have been relaxed to further this goal.

In August, moreover, Canada launched its first-ever Express Entry invitations for newcomers with trade experience.

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This prioritizes those who have held trade experience – including contractors, electricians, and welders. These changes further help Canada construction to attract skilled foreign trade workers to the country.

One of the government’s initiatives to encourage women in construction has been to implement women’s’-only bathrooms and provide more accessible and suitable bathrooms under new regulations to the Construction Projects Regulation O. Reg. 213/91 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, O. Reg. 61/23.

While all the above-mentioned initiatives are “a step in the right direction,” according to Chavez-Gallardo, more is needed than what is being done currently. Otherwise, the 72,000-strong construction worker shortage – with 80,000 more on the horizon – will create housing shortages that would inevitably drive-up home costs.

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