mining canada

Amid increasing signs of an uptick in building activity going into 2013, a recent report has found that a significant shortage of skills exists in a number of construction related trades including construction managers, engineers and many segments of the industry relating to mining and resources.

The latest CIBC World Markets report shows that across the Canadian economy, wage and employment prospects can be separated into ‘have’ and ‘have not’ occupations.

“On one hand, jobs go unfilled for long stretches due to a lack of skilled applicants,” said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal. “In fact, the Prime Minister recently described skills shortages in the Canadian labour market as ‘the biggest challenge our country faces.”

In terms of construction-related trades, the report shows a significant number of mining and engineering-related trades represented in a list of 25 occupations showing skills shortages. No construction related trades were identified in occupations of significant oversupply.

The trades facing skills shortages include:

  • Managers in engineering, architecture, science and information systems
  • Managers in construction and transportation
  • Civil, mechanical and chemical engineers
  • Other engineers
  • Supervisors in mining, oil and gas
  • Underground miners, oil and gas drillers and related workers.

busy construction site

Tal said no less than 30 per cent of businesses indicated they face a skilled labour shortage – double the rate seen as recently as early 2010. He said employment in the 25 trades is rising by 2.1 per cent – much faster than the rest of the market, and the rate of wage increases within this group (3.9 per cent) is double that of the economy as a whole.

In the context of the shortage in some trades, Tal said a renewed focus on apprenticeships and a revamped skilled worker program are welcome developments, though neither will be sufficient to meet the needs of skilled trades going forward. According to one recent report, investment in the oil sands alone will create demand for around 80,000 person year hours of construction work.

“In this context, the recently announced government plans to admit between 53,000 and 55,000 new Canadians in 2013 through an overhauled federal skilled worker program is a welcome development. However, it’s simply not large enough to turn things around” Tal said. “Ditto for the increased focus on apprenticeships as a possible solution to the chronic shortage in skilled trades. Despite recent program improvements, the number of certificates granted to apprentices is still a fraction of the overall size of the skilled trades labour pool.”

Outside of mining and engineering, other areas of the market with major skills shortages include health professionals, managers and scientists.

On the other hand, significant oversupply was recorded in trades such as office clerks, cashiers and a number of industrial related trades.

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By Andrew Heaton