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Nova Scotia's construction industry to face challenges as 8,000 workers set to retire over next 10 years

The loss of those workers combined with fewer young people available to fill the vacant spots will make it difficult to maintain a skilled workforce of sufficient size, says a spokeswoman for BuildForce Canada.
A construction worker moves about the roof of a building that is being erected in downtown Halifax. The retirement of 8,000 construction workers over the next decade will pose challenges for the province's construction industry, says BuildForce Canada. (ERIC WYNNE / Local Xpress)

Nova Scotia will lose over 8,000 skilled construction workers to retirement in the coming decade, says the head of a national industry organization.

"Nova Scotia is basically the second-oldest age profile in the country. And to lose almost a quarter of your workforce over 10 years is a significant challenge for the industry," Rosemary Sparks, executive director of BuildForce Canada, said in an interview.

Changing demographics in the coming decade will add to the difficulty of maintaining a skilled workforce of sufficient size, with fewer young people available to counter before 2026 the loss of about 25 per cent of the current skilled workforce.

"It adds to the challenge when you're trying to replace these retiring workers from a smaller pool of younger workers," Sparks said.

ew020217construction4Construction cranes dominate the Halifax skyline. (ERIC WYNNE / Local Xpress)

The growing deficiency of skilled workers will occur when there will be a steadily increasing demand in the province for construction workers for commercial and institutional projects, and for workers for ongoing maintenance of some of the major projects now underway.

BuildForce Canada is also forecasting steady and increasing demand for engineers over the next 10 years, who will be required to design infrastructure projects like bridges and transmission lines.

The organization reviews 34 construction trade classifications across Canada as part of its regular 10-year labour forecast.

"The big message here is the construction industry in Nova Scotia faces a huge demographic challenge," Sparks said.

She said a major recruitment effort must focus on countering this huge wave of retirements.

"It takes careful planning to counter the loss of 8,000 retirees. Industry is losing a lot of skill and experience."

The BuildForce forecast, released Thursday, notes the completion of current major projects will reduce labour requirements this year and next, while shipbuilding and manufacturing activity will rise in 2019 and 2020.

BuildForce is a national industry-led organization representing all sectors of Canada's construction industry, with a mandate to provide accurate and timely labour market data and analysis. For additional details, visit


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