Rising construction demands may create further challenges for Nova Scotia’s construction labour force

April 24, 2023

Construction and maintenance activity in Nova Scotia recorded its fourth consecutive year of growth in 2022, as ongoing and new major projects in the non-residential sector added to growth already created by strong levels of new-home construction and renovation work. These factors combined to push overall industry employment above 30,000 workers in 2022 in the 34 trades and occupations tracked by BuildForce Canada, an 8% increase over levels recorded in 2021. Overall employment is expected to rise further, exceeding 33,200 workers in 2028, before dropping off slightly toward the end of the 2023–2032 forecast period.

BuildForce Canada released its 2023–2032 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Nova Scotia today. The outlook anticipates that overall construction employment in the province will be 3% higher by 2032 than levels achieved in 2022.

“Nova Scotia’s construction sector has been supported in recent years by a housing market that is being driven by elevated migration levels and strong activity in engineering construction and in the institutional sector,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Although those drivers are expected to moderate somewhat into 2023, later years call for elevated demand for residential renovation work, and increased growth in the engineering construction and industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors.”

“The provincial construction workforce may be faced with a challenge to keep up with imminent labour force demands. Even as 2022 began, many trades and occupations reported elevated recruiting challenges, which may be sustained across the forecast period with demands created by rising investment in both residential and non-residential construction, as well as increasing retirements and competition from other industries for a declining share of younger workers,” says Duncan Williams, President and CEO of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia.

The BuildForce Canada market outlook projects that as many as 7,800 workers, or 24% of the current labour force, will retire from Nova Scotia’s construction industry by 2032. Coupled with an anticipated rise in employment demands, the industry will need to recruit as many as 10,900 workers by 2032. These numbers do not take into account the federal government’s goal to double the number of new homes built across Canada over the next 10 years, nor do they account for any anticipated increase in demand for construction services related to the retrofit of existing residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings to accommodate the electrification of the economy.

Over the same period, the industry is expected to recruit a potential 6,600 new workers aged 30 or younger from the local population, leaving a gap of 4,100 workers that will need to be filled from a variety of sources outside the existing labour force.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship registrations in Nova Scotia’s 20 largest trade programs have been on an upward curve over the past decade, a fact that may be attributable to increased construction activity.

At the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completions, several trades may be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2032. These trades include Bricklayer, Carpenter, Construction Electrician, Heavy Equipment Technician, Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), Gas Fitter, Mobile Crane Operator, Roofer, Steamfitter/Pipefitter, and Welder.

“The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment of individuals from groups traditionally under-represented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous People, African Nova Scotians, Persons with Disabilities, and newcomers to Canada to help meet our future labour force needs,” says Trent Soholt, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council.

In 2022, Nova Scotia’s construction industry employed approximately 4,150 women; 270 more than in 2021. Of them, 26% worked on site, directly on construction projects. Women made up just 4% of the 30,900 tradespeople employed in the province’s construction industry.

The Indigenous population is another under-represented group that represents potential recruitment opportunities for Nova Scotia’s construction industry. In 2022, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 5% of the province’s construction labour force, or about the same percentage as among the overall provincial labour force. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada and Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, there may be scope to further increase the recruitment of Indigenous People into the province’s construction industry.

The construction industry is also committed to the recruitment of newcomers to Canada. Based on historical settlement trends, the province is expected to welcome an average of 1,300 new international migrants each year between 2023 and 2032. Newcomers have played an increasingly important role in replenishing Nova Scotia’s workforce, with the share of immigrants in the workforce doubling over the past decade – from 5% in 2011 to 10% in 2021.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to support the labour market development needs of the construction and maintenance industry. As part of these activities, BuildForce works with key industry stakeholders, including contractors, proponents of construction, labour providers, governments, and training providers to identify both demand and supply trends that will impact labour force capacity in the sector, and supports the career searches of job seekers wanting to work in the industry. BuildForce also leads programs and initiatives that support workforce upskilling, workforce productivity improvements, improvements to training modalities, human resource tools to support the adoption of industry best practices, as well as other value-added initiatives focused on supporting the industry’s labour force development needs. Visit www.buildforce.ca.

For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at ferreira@buildforce.ca or 613-569-5552 ext. 2220.

This report was produced with the support and input of a variety of provincial construction and maintenance industry stakeholders. For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:

Trent Soholt
Executive Director
Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council – ICI

Duncan Williams
President and CEO
Construction Association of Nova Scotia

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.