The following first appeared in Construction Business magazine on March 30, 2022.
An acute labour shortage, cost increases, supply chain challenges and mental health are all top issues for the B.C. construction sector in 2022.
“Competition for talent is intense,” said Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) president Chris Gardner during the annual CEO Breakfast at Buildex Vancouver 2022. “Prices for materials are at historic levels. Everything is more expensive. We’re in a perfect storm of labour shortage and input costs.”
According to ICBA’s annual survey, the majority of member companies expect 2022 to be as busy or busier than 2021. Nearly 56 per cent said they will do more work this year which will compound the labour shortage challenge, said Gardner.
“There are only two ways to really deal with the labour shortage. Technology – so being more productive, doing more with less and immigration,” he said.
Gardner went on to emphasize how red tape and regulations continue to delay projects and cripple Canada’s competitiveness. “It’s very difficult to do business in this country and in this province. When it comes to infrastructure, we’re astonishingly short sighted. We simply take too long to build critical pieces of infrastructure.”
Canada ranks 64th globally for how long it takes to process a construction permit according to the World Bank, which Gardner called “embarrassing.” Because the result is: businesses and investors take their ideas, their people, and their capital elsewhere. It is felt acutely when it comes to housing permits at city halls.
“Why does it take as long to approve a permit as it does to build it? It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Workplace wellness came up for the first time in the annual survey. Gardner said the association saw a gap in the marketplace to help construction contractors and employees specifically and rolled out its free Workplace Wellness Program last year to address concerns in the industry.
He explained ICBA consulted with contractors, construction workers, and wellness experts to develop a workplace wellness program that focuses on the construction worker. Everything is designed for the unique challenges and pressures of construction.
For 2022, ICBA has taken another step by partnering with former Canucks goaltender and mental health advocate Corey Hirsch for speaking tours around the province to “normalize the conversation” about mental wellness..
Rennie Group president Greg Zayadi and vice president of intelligence Andrew Ramlo were guest speakers at the breakfast and shared similar insights on the tight labour market and construction costs as well as immigration and impacts on the real estate market.
Zayadi said he gets regular calls from companies looking for “talent at every level” so it’s not just construction that’s feeling the pinch. He also noted skyrocketing construction pricing is causing developers to hesitate about taking projects to market. The dramatic construction increase in Metro Vancouver is the single biggest unknown proformas for developers.
“The construction number is now the largest number in that proforma,” said Zayadi.