Navigating the skilled labour shortage

VRCA members surveyed tell us the No. 1 issue keeping them up at night is the skilled labour shortage. And with good reason – the Lower Mainland’s construction industry is busy and industry unemployment is below 4 per cent, placing it near historic lows.

At the same time, the industry’s workforce is aging. Within the decade, approximately 22 per cent of today’s skilled trades workers will retire. The retirements will be offset somewhat by first-time new entrants aged 30 years and younger anticipated to join the local construction workforce, however, it won’t be enough.

The Lower Mainland will be short 7,300 workers by late 2021, and 17,400 by 2029. Province wide, the construction industry will be short 23,000 skilled trade workers by 2029.

VRCA offers the following resources for navigating the skilled labour shortage. The resources have been organized around recruitment life cycle of: Understand the Market, Attract, Train and Retain.

Understand the market

1. Understand the labour market supply and demand in B.C. and the Lower Mainland


2. Be an Employer of Choice

  • Today’s candidates want to understand a company’s vision, values, corporate culture and their career path in the organization, so communicate the details!
    • Sign up for a complimentary, half-day Business Execution Check-In with VRCA’s strategic partner, Results, and make a plan to be an Employer of Choice.
  • Adopt the Builders Code, which is a standard code of conduct for workers on construction sites in B.C. It defines an “Acceptable Worksite” as the starting point for reducing risk and ensuring a safe and productive environment for all workers.

3. Recruit from your own team

  • Take time to evaluate all your positions and the skills needed to succeed. Next evaluate your team for core skills and passions. Aligning the two is an important part of succession planning.

4. Shore up your future recruitment needs by engaging young, tech-savvy prospects early

  • Encourage your Under-40 employees to volunteer in our school outreach program, designed to engage and inspire K-12 students to pursue a career in construction.

5. Adopt a “we are always hiring” mentality

  • Carry “We are hiring” ads on your company trucks, on site and on your website.

6. Place job ads that describe not only the position but your vision, value and corporate culture. Inspire them to join your team!

  • Check out VRCA’s Construction Job Centre, a construction-specific job board that attracts job postings and viewers from across B.C.

7. Build your brand

  • Tell potential employees that what you offer is unique.
  • Focus on the candidate experience:
    • Keep them up to date on the recruitment process so they don’t go weeks without hearing from you;
    • Make them feel valued for what they bring to the table; and
    • Know that a positive recruitment experience may tip the scales in your favour if candidates receive multiple offers.

8. Make good use of government programs to find the people you need

9. Target under-represented groups

  • BuildForce Canada suggests that building a sustainable workforce will require the industry to increase recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented in the current construction labour force, including women, Indigenous workers and new Canadians.

10. Understand the options available to recruit skilled workers from overseas

  • Ask for guidance from a variety of recruitment professionals, including immigration specialists.
    • Connect with the recruitment professionals and immigration specialists that are members of VRCA.

11. Make the offer attractive


12. Double down on education. Invest in your employees’ professional development

13. Encourage your employees to find a mentor to provide insight, guidance and perspective as needed

  • Check out our U40 Mentoring Breakfasts and the Women4Climate mentorship program offered by our Zero Emissions Building Exchange (ZEBx) and the City of Vancouver.


14. Offer competitive remuneration and attractive benefits packages

15. Focus on retention

  • Focus on what’s important to the people who are already on your team. Consider conducting “stay” interviews by asking employees what they like about working for your company, areas they think can be improved, and then act on what you learn.

16. Invest in employee productivity

  • If positions remain unfilled longer than anticipated, you might need to rearrange teams or rethink individual roles.
  • You might also invest in technology to boost the productivity of the workers you have in order to fill in for the workers that you don’t have.