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June 25, 2009

Alberta must ready for upturn, says Construction Sector Council

EDMONTON

Representatives from labour and industry took part in Alberta’s Construction Labour Market Symposium this week to ensure that Alberta has the skilled labour force in place when the economy turns around.

“It’s crucial that we plan now for the economic upturn,” said George Gritziotis, Executive Director of the Construction Sector Council. “When big energy projects gear back up we have to make sure our skilled workforce is ready.”

Highlight’s of the Construction Sector Council’s annual report “Construction Looking Forward” for Alberta show construction employment in the province is on the decline after more than a decade of extraordinary growth.

Although a number of major manufacturing projects are planned or underway, including three ethanol production plants, employment losses will continue into 2011.

These losses will shift from residential trades to the skilled non-residential workforce after the cancellation or postponement of several proposed oil industry projects.

When Alberta starts to come out of the recession in 2010, big energy projects are expected to come back on stream in 2013.

“Transportation and related projects will also pick up in the medium term,” said Ken Gibson, executive director of the Alberta Construction Association.

“It means we have some breathing room now to plan for better times.”

Government investment is expected to increase rapidly in 2009 and 2010 as the fiscal stimulus package is spent on various public infrastructure projects from water, sewer and roads to hospitals and schools.

“Our challenge is to make sure that experienced trades’ people who left the industry and province in the downturn come back,” said Jay Westman, President and CEO of Jayman MasterBUILT.

“We know that when the recession ends we’ll need these skilled trades’ workers.”

The forecast shows that employment in residential and non-residential trades will rise by 2015, exceeding 2008 employment levels. New housing investment and housing starts will rebound in the longer term reaching 32 thousand units in 2017.

The forecast also projects that as many as 22,000 construction workers are expected to retire from 2009 to 2017.

Another 8,000 new workers will be needed to meet construction demand later in the forecast period as the economy strengthens and major oil sand investment increases starting in 2014.

Ron Harry, executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta said, “Industry and government must meet the challenges of volatile markets by continually utilizing skilled trades people from all parts of Canada, replacing retirees and improving the skills of our construction workforce.”

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