CKNW Future of Work Series: The future of Construction

If you build it, they will come! David Jorge, President of Avante Concrete says all you need to do is drive around the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley to see there’s a lot of construction still happening.

According to the B.C. Construction Association, by the year 2025, there will be 15,000 unfilled construction jobs throughout B.C. As an older generation of workers start to head into retirement, younger workers will be needed to fill the roles and keep the industry thriving.

LISTEN: The future of Construction here.

When you think of a construction worker, the images that come to mind are usually hard hats, flannel shirts, steel-toed boots, but the industry is changing and a wider variety of jobs are becoming available.

Fiona Famulak is the President of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, says the industry has not done a good job of promoting itself and changing the stereotype.

“We’re quite familiar with the stock photo, with the guy with the hard hat, on a site, on a rainy day with a hammer. And every one jumps to the conclusion that that is what a career in construction looks like.  That picture is neither appealing nor is it fairly representative of the industry because the industry is far more sophisticated and tech savvy than that picture would lead you to believe. There are a number of opportunities to pursue what I would call as a clean career or a white collar career.”

She says the industry is often misunderstood and thought of as a career path with limited options. Famulak says that career can be anything from operating machinery to a project manager in charge of keeping things on track.

William Donellan IRL Construction says major improvements in safety are also enticing workers.

“Safety is our priority, and everybody’s priority working in the construction industry, you know everyone who goes to work in the morning needs to get home safely that evening to their wife or girlfriends or husbands or whatever it may be.”

But he says technology is also playing a big role.

“Technology has changed drastically in the past 10 years, just with the different software, they’ve increased efficiencies and led to major, major, cost savings in the last 10-15 years.”

But President of Avante Concrete David Jorge, says technology also has its cons.

“Some of these new technologies take some of the old world craftsmanship out of at least the concrete industry.  Things that were at one time done by hand, by tradespeople, are now being done by machines, so, I truly believe that concrete is a craft and something that I adore and some of this equipment is getting in the way of that.”

The average annual wage for a person in the BC construction industry is around $57,000, second only to a job in the oil and gas industry.  With two-thirds of the workforce currently over the age of 45, Famulak says that the VRCA actively engages with young people to show them the benefits and long term careers that can be had in the construction industry.

“Our association has been actively engaging high-school students through it’s high-school outreach program in the last 12 to 15 months,” says Famulak.

She says they’ve been able to engage with more than 1,200 students and bus some of the myths of having a career in construction.

“It’s interesting, we survey the students before we engage them about how likely they would be to pursue a career in construction and then we survey them afterwards and we were delighted to see that we’ve converted 34 per cent of those students who would have at the beginning of the session said no or maybe to a career in construction.”

So with construction ramping up across the Lower Mainland, safety improvements, technology advancements and career options, the future might be bright for construction despite many workers heading for retirement.

Greg Schott | April 20, 2017 

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