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‘No choice but to solve this’: Calgary Construction Association sounds alarm over ongoing worker shortage

One in four jobs open in Calgary is connected to the construction industry yet there is a shortage of workers, according to the Calgary Construction Association.

The association looked at Statistics Canada data showing in the third quarter of 2023, out of the 30,500 job vacancies in Calgary, 7,560 were in construction.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the residential industry as heightened in their concern as it is now. It’s because the demand keeps increasing, and they’re kind of hitting the ceiling. But commercial (construction) is feeling it just as bad,” said Bill Black, association president.

“The whole of society should be very concerned, because if you have no construction industry bandwidth, how do you build hospitals and schools, roads, utilities, communities and homes?

“If you want to grow as a city or as a country, construction is fundamental to your ability to do so. So it is really a situation where we have no choice but to solve this, but there is no easy solution.”

Speaking to a conference of largely trades and construction business owners on Wednesday, Premier Danielle Smith said her government is so committed to seeing the trades grow, it will even pay some tradespeople to move to this province.

“This year’s budget commits to an increase in funding to add 3,200 apprenticeship classroom seats in high-demand areas and support curriculum updates to the apprenticeship program,” Smith said.

In its first-ever labour market outlook, the City of Calgary says construction labour shortages are expected to continue through the coming decade, but other industries including, retail trade, education and accommodation/food services will also feel a crunch for workers.

Cristina Schultz, recruitment manager for About Staffing, a Calgary-based employment and recruitment company, says some employers face worker shortages not because of a dearth of possible employees, but because those potential employees simply aren’t willing to work for the wages and benefits being offered.

“The cost of living, generally speaking, across the board is continuing to increase day by day. So, job seekers are having to change their expectations, salary specifically, benefits, of course, tying into that,” Schultz said.

“If you don’t have the package of what they need to live, it’s never going to work and it’s not going to be sustainable.”

Black says money is not the issue holding people back from entering the trades.

“If there’s a perception that trades don’t pay, well, I suspect somebody hasn’t looked deep enough, because the trades pay very well. And they do not incur the same level of student debt,” said Black, who believes the industry has an image problem.

“We need to rebrand the value of the construction industry for a career. North America-wide, there is a perception if you want to be anybody, you have to have an academic degree.”

While the Calgary labour market pointed out industries where workers will be in short supply, it also says in the coming decade there will be a surfeit of auditors, accountants and investment professionals, as well as warehouse labourers, retail store managers and elementary school teachers.

The city’s complete labour market outlook can be found at

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