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71% of Northern BC construction contractors dealing with worker shortages

(With files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

Nearly 80% of construction contractors in the north are expecting more work in 2022.

That’s according to the latest Wage and Benefits Survey from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA).

(Graphic supplied by ICBA)

In addition, 71% of contractors in our region say they are short workers including truck drivers, carpenters, and labourers.

ICBA President, Chris Gardner spoke with Vista Radio.

“We need more people. The challenge we are having is that we aren’t getting enough people entering the workforce – we are seeing this in every region across the province but certainly, in northern British Columbia it is not immune from these big provincial and national trends.”

Gardner adds several companies are coping with worker shortages by spending extra time on recruitment (70%), turning down work (62%), and delaying project completion dates (60%).

For the first time since in the wage and benefits survey’s history, supply chain issues were mentioned as a major concern by contractors across the province.

“All of that is putting pressure on the bottom line of contractors. They are busier but it’s harder to make money and it’s also increasing the cost of construction. So, when you buy a condominium for the first-time homebuyer to a community centre that is going to be built by the government, it’s all going to cost more,” added Gardner.

When asked if the provincial and federal vaccine mandates are putting a further strain on the trades sector – most notably construction, Gardner noted it is having a slight impact.

“It’s having an impact. Any impact is not good in the current environment so I think it’s having an impact but not quite the same one as it is having in other industries.”

According to the ICBA, the solution to solving the labour shortage problem is tied to two things.

“They both happen over the medium and the long-term. The first one is we have to become more productive and innovative by doing more with fewer people. The second one is immigration as there is simply not enough people entering the workforce in Canada and in BC. If you took out immigration, Canada’s population would not be growing and start to decline in a couple of years,” said Gardner.

“Unfortunately, there is still the stereotype in high schools that if you are not smart enough to get into arts and sciences then just go down the hallway, go around the corner and you’ll end up in the trades department. It’s sort of viewed as the second-best option, but really, it shouldn’t.”

He anticipates the average trade wage rate to reach $35 an hour by the end of this year.

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