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Future Research

Project Title: Retention and Recruitment Strategies for Construction Companies in Northwest Ontario During Labour Shortages


The proposed report will examine factors that contribute to a successful retention and recruitment strategy for construction companies in Northwest Ontario (NWO) during labour shortages as well, examine the impact of technology on construction workforce in terms of wages, training, job distribution, and career paths.


In today's society, there are many careers in construction; however many consider that there are better/more attractive jobs outside of the construction industry. The purpose of this research is to explore initiatives construction companies can set forth to implement successful retention and recruitment strategies when faced with issues such as labour shortages, changing demographics, and a lack of overall industry attractiveness. The basic purpose of introducing technology into the workplace is to promote a transfer of skill from labour to capital. With the transference of skills comes a loss of worker efficacy. This report will also serve to examine the impact of technology on the construction industry in terms of labour wages, job training, job distribution, and career paths.

Construction Labour Shortage

Canada has an aging population, mainly as a result of two factors: increased life expectancy and the fact that the baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement. According to the Construction Sector Council, between 2012 and 2020, the construction sector will need 319,000 new workers: 219,000 to replace retiring workers, and 100,000 to fill new openings (CSC, 2012). The Council estimates that 163,000 graduates can be recruited, but an additional 156,000 workers will have to be found from other sectors or from outside of Canada (CSC, 2012). It is clear today that skilled trades offer jobs in construction and a variety of other industrial sectors that contribute significantly to Canada’s economy. Three out of the oil and gas industry’s top ten jobs are in the skilled trades, but negative misconceptions are still prevalent about work in the trades, which is one of the causes preventing students from choosing a career in that sector (House of Commons Canada, 2012). Skills shortages in the trades are particularly challenging and stated that shortages could be putting Canada’s economy at risk in the years ahead, particularly in growing sectors such as the oil and gas industry and the mining sector. The average age of a construction worker in 2014 is 41 (Buildforce, 2014).

Changing Demographics

The number of women employed in construction has increased over time. Women represented 12.6% of the Canadian construction industry workforce in 2006, but the rate of their employment (4%) in the construction trades was smaller (CSC, 2010). Although there were slight increases between 2001 and 2006 in women’s participation rate in some trades (insulators, cabinetmakers, painters/decorators, tile-setters and floor covering installers), there was little or no growth in many other occupations, and in many trades the representation of women was still less than 2% (CSC, 2010). The barriers to women’s access to industry careers persist in recruitment, apprenticeship training and education, hiring/employment, and the workplace.

The Aboriginal population is growing rapidly and has high proportion of young people read to enter the workforce (CSC, 2010). Construction companies that succeed in recruiting and retaining an Aboriginal workforce start with a clear understanding of the business case for Aboriginal labour in construction, and can then employ a variety of outreach strategies (CSC, 2010). They encourage the hiring of Aboriginal workers, develop targeted recruiting efforts aimed at Aboriginal people, promote apprenticeship, and help prepare youth to succeed in the construction industry.

According to the CGA published report, Labour Shortages in Skilled Trades – The Best Guestimate?; “The number of younger workers exceeded the number of those close to retirement in many skilled trades in 2011. Specifically, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Gas Fitters, Electrical Trades, Carpenters and Cabinetmakers, Other Construction Trades and Other installers and Repairers have a relatively young age structure as the entrants-to-near-retirees ration for those trades stands above 1. Overall, the ‘young’ trades account for 63.8% of all skilled trades. However, some trades (i.e. Machinists and Related Occupations, Heavy Equipment Operators, and Machinery and Transportation Equipment Mechanics) show alarming signs of aging as they have a substantially larger number of workers close to retirement than those who are in early stages of their careers” (Lefebvre, Simonova, & Wang, 2012).

As illustrated in the article: BUILDING A YOUNGER WORKFORCE; Construction industry's marketing pitch toward gaming generation: It's not backbreaking work, but a mind-bending career, it refers to the importance of the digital generation being included in such work as heavy equipment operating because of improved hand eye coordination which allows precision and consistency (Rodriguez, 2014).

Industry Attractiveness

A common deterrent of people wanting to enter the construction industry is the general misconceptions associated with it. A study done on the sociology of the construction industry workforce demonstrated that the construction industry was distinctive in the uniqueness of the job and its resulting personal satisfaction for the worker when compared to the industrial industry (Borcherding, 1972). The industry as a whole needs to concentrate on improving the image of construction, but it also needs to focus on putting forth a maximum effort on improving training capacity, enhancing wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Research Design

Participants have been identified as either being a employee in a supervisor role of a company represented by the Construction Association of Thunder Bay or a person employed in NWO, in one of the 33 defined trades and occupation list as set forth by BuildForce Canada. Furthermore, Guidance Councillors, Academic Advisors, or persons in a similar roles at Secondary Schools in NWO have been identified as candidates for the research due to the familiarity with student's post-secondary decisions.

The definition of the geographic region include in this analysis was determined by the availability and reliability of data. For this analysis, Statistics Canada's Economic Region 3595, including the following three Census divisions, defines the Northwest region: Thunder Bay District (3558), Rainy River District (3559), and Kenora District (3560).

Surveys will be used to solicit information on the demographics of construction firms, company perceptions of the current shortage of labour, areas where the shortage exists, and the extent that shortages have/will impact the companies. The survey also will ask about company recruitment plans that have been implemented, and the success of these efforts. Through the data obtained from the surveys, the report will outline current efforts for improving the labour force shortage and provide suggestions for recruitment and retention of the construction trade labour force.