Would you be stunned to hear that Canada has a serious labour shortage problem? Since you’re active in the world of equipment rentals (and not living under a rock) I’m going to assume you’re aware of this issue.
To combat the shortfall of labour created by our aging population and low birth rates, the Canadian government is expected to bring in approximately 4.45 million new immigrants between 2023 and 2032, according to BuildForce Canada’s reports. As things stand currently, immigrants are an underrepresented group within the construction sector, making up about 18.3 per cent of the labour force compared to approximately 27 per cent of the country’s overall workforce. This, when the report estimates that Canada’s construction sector will lose around 20 per cent of its workforce due to retirement in the next 10 years, which is about 245,100 workers. Over this same time period, overall employment required in the sector is expected to increase, led by a four-percent increase in non-residential employment (about 21,600 workers), which will counter an expected one-percent contraction in employment in residential employment (about 5,300 workers). This means the construction sector will be scrambling to fill about 261,400 positions between now and 2032.
Now that I’ve filled your head with labour statistics, some of you may be wondering why I’m so focused on the construction sector. It’s because I’ve noticed some interesting parallels between the equipment rental sector and the construction sector over my past four years of writing for Canadian Rental Service (and more than a decade of covering the construction sector). The biggest parallel is that you both have the exact same labour issues: too many people retiring and not enough people coming into the sector to replace those workers. Yes, this is happening in many sectors across Canada, but the construction sector’s woes matter more than others when it comes to the world of equipment rentals. Why? In many cases, both sectors are trying to attract the same kinds of people. The construction sector is looking for people with knowledge of the maintenance and operation of light and heavy construction equipment, as well as a variety of skilled trades professionals. In many cases, these are ideal employees for the equipment rental sector.
Here’s the good and the bad news related to the construction sector’s needs. I’ll give you the bad news first: the construction sector has the advantage of being able to offer more competitive wages (in many cases). Will this create some additional hiring and retention challenges for equipment rental companies looking to hire new immigrants that are either skilled trades professionals or have significant knowledge related to light and heavy construction equipment? Possibly.
But here’s the good news: the construction sector (and all the of the skilled trades) have been lobbying the federal government for increased numbers of skilled trades workers for many years, and it looks like the alarm they’ve been sounding has been noticed. The government of Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan for 2023-2025, is expected to bring in about 1.45 million new immigrants over that three-year-period. Approximately 305,900 of those fall under the “Federal High Skilled” category.
According to the BuildForce report, “Meeting near- and long-term demand requirements will require a combination of industry strategies that include increased recruitment and training of youth, looking to traditionally under-represented groups.”
As labour shortages continue to accumulate within various sectors across the country, the equipment rental sector needs to take a page out of the construction sector’s playbook and focus on building long-term strategies to battle its own labour issues. Otherwise, it will find itself managing bigger and bigger labour gaps for years to come.
Andrew Snook is the former editor of Rock to Road, Crane and Hoist and On Site.
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