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Construction countdown: Committee given 100 days to address 'critical' labour shortage

An apartment building under construction in Fredericton in July, 2023. According to a news release from the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, around 4.2 per cent of construction jobs are currently unfilled and estimates show that there will be 8,400 retirements between now and 2032. (Stephen MacGillivray/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A new committee has a big challenge ahead of them.

It has 100 days to come up with ideas to deal with the labour shortage in New Brunswick's construction sector.

The Labour Force Adjustment Committee, led by the Construction Association of New Brunswick, is government-funded and includes "industry stakeholders" and members of government.

John-Ryan Morrison, executive director of the construction association, said the ideas will hopefully be tested over the 100 days to see if they could be put into action after the challenge ends.

John-Ryan Morrison is executive director of the Construction Association of New Brunswick.
John-Ryan Morrison is executive director of the Construction Association of New Brunswick.

John-Ryan Morrison, executive director of the Construction Association of New Brunswick, says 10,000 construction job vacancies are expected by 2032, and calls the state of the industry shortage 'critical.' (Submitted by John-Ryan Morrison)

"I think everybody came in with ideas," he said. "We didn't want to lead them with any. We wanted this to be really industry-driven."

Morrison said there are three project teams focused on international recruitment, one team on employer workplace readiness and another on credential recognition.

Approximately 4.2 per cent of construction jobs are currently unfilled and it's estimated there will be 8,400 retirements between now and 2032, according to a news release from the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.

Morrison said the state of the industry shortage is "critical" —10,000 vacancies are anticipated by 2032.

"Based upon the housing strategy released by New Brunswick and all the stats that have supported that, it's 6,000 homes in the next 10 years that New Brunswick needs to build to meet housing demand," said Morrison.

The news release says the provincial government is contributing $250,000 to the project while the federal government is providing $190,612.

Andrew Nelson, the owner of Homestead Bay Contracting in Moncton, said he can count on one hand the number of local job applications he received last year. He currently has 10 employees, but has enough work for more than 30.
Andrew Nelson, the owner of Homestead Bay Contracting in Moncton, said he can count on one hand the number of local job applications he received last year. He currently has 10 employees, but has enough work for more than 30.

'The industry is up against a lot of pressure,' says Andrew Nelson, owner of Homestead Bay Contracting in Moncton. Nelson is on one of the committee's international recruitment teams. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

A spokesperson for the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour said Minister Arlene Dunn was not available on Tuesday morning.

Andrew Nelson, who owns Homestead Bay Contracting in Moncton, is one of the New Brunswickers asked to sit on the committee.

For the last few years, he's been working to try to bring newcomers to the province to work in the construction industry, and he hopes the committee will continue to work toward that goal.

"It's one of the first times that government has come and asked to work with the key stakeholders beforehand so that we can really come together and come up with a strategic approach," said Nelson.

Nelson is on one of the international recruitment teams and hopes the meetings will identify ways to bring skilled talent into the province.

He said one of the challenges he faces is trying to make sure the people who come to New Brunswick have the skills and experience needed to do the job.

The first step for the committee, he said, is to identify the current challenges facing the construction industry.

Another challenge, said Nelson, is that the proposed projects together with those currently approved, represent around $4 billion dollars in projects. With the aging population within the sector, completing those projects will not be easy.

"The industry is up against a lot of pressure," he said.

"In order to do these projects, you need bodies to help with the builds and excavation — everything within the construction industry."

Nelson said he's confident the committee will be able to put forward some ideas, but he said although 100 days may seem like a long time, it's not.

He said he hopes the time will be used to take a good look at the current processes and determine whether or not they are the most efficient ways of doing things.