Labour Staffing Shortages, Realities & Solutions

Labour is the single most variable component in most construction activities. Any inability to source, manage, train, or anticipate disruptions to the workforce, puts subcontractors, contractors, owners, and other stakeholders in the project at great risk.

Productivity is the output produced by a unit of study as a proportion of input required to produce it. A host of issues can undermine productivity: unplanned change order disruptions, accidents, continuous overtime burnout, poor site management, no focus on productivity or training, poor documentation (including the lack of an execution plan), failure to embrace continuous improvement and poor communication.

Good Productivity is highly dependent upon several factors, including strong levels of trust and quality collaborative relationships.


Fundamental Labour Statistics

Some basic awareness: the Canadian Construction Labour work force comprises some 1,550,000 members according to BuildForce Canada[1], with 87.4 % being male and 12.6% female as of July 2021. Employment within the building industry is not yet back to the pre-pandemic levels recorded in July 2019 but the trends are improving and the number of hours worked also continues to expand.

The regional practical labour force available to Alberta currently stands at around 240,000 individuals, with estimates projecting those 40,000 individuals of the current labour forces will retire by 2030. The residential labour force alone on new housing and renovation has around 80,000 individuals employed. The chart graphic depicts a breakdown allocation of the current labour force in Alberta.


Solid, well-rounded experience in any career or trade apprenticeship endeavour is generally regarded to be acquired starting at around 10,000 hours, according to Malcom Gladwell[2]. The 10,000 hours derived from a combination of repeated emphasis and practice on the basics, investment in training, attendance at workshops, reading and developing good mentorships, is essential. Having a solid grasp of upside potential, opportunity, risk knowledge, limitations and constraints is crucial to developing good, well-rounded industry professional expertise.


Current Realities Impacting Labour & Productivity

Globally, all sectors of the new economy operating with just-in-time supply chains are being impacted and disrupted, with resulting construction labour disruption implications and consequences. Ongoing fortuitous black swan events like the Suez Canal blockage, the Texas Ice Storm, or the never-ending US hurricane season and the British Columbia forest fires are all triggers for unplanned and unscheduled labour disruptions in management or at the job site craft workman level.

Material supply chain handling logistic disruptions, cited in The Business Insider[3] in late August, reported that “Forty-four container ships are