The construction industry may be booming in New Brunswick amid COVID-19, but some contractors and renovators are having to turn down work due to a lack of trades workers.
Jonathan Denton, the owner of Little John’s Renovations in Moncton, said he has had to turn away 20 per cent of business because he cannot find enough skilled trades workers to take on all of his job requests.
“We work our whole lives to be at this point and now we have got to say no,” Denton said.
Skills Canada New Brunswick’s executive director, Courtney Donovan, said contractors are having to turn down work and the trades worker shortage stretches across the construction industry, including bricklayers and roofers.
“It is right across the board,” Donovan said.
That shortage is part of the reason Skills Canada New Brunswick hosted its annual trades skill competition at a middle school for the first time on Wednesday.
The goal was to introduce students at Maplehurst Middle School in Moncton to the trades at an earlier age, hoping to spark some interest for the future, Donovan said.
“Recognize that they are a viable career and a viable career here in New Brunswick,” she said.
“Just here in Moncton alone, there are going to be 7,000 jobs in the next three years and only about 1,200 of them require a degree,” she said, adding that of the remainder, 4,000 will likely be in the trades.
Donovan said that 100,000 trades jobs ranging from construction trades to those in the culinary industry will be needed in New Brunswick over the next decade. But given the current labour shortage, there is not likely to be enough trained workers to fill those positions.
The school’s shop teacher, Brice Betts, is hoping that taking part in the skills competition will encourage more students to take trades courses and also develop some life skills.
“I want them to value it and I want them to respect it as being a viable option, not one that is kind of a second option,” Betts said.
Donovan says that at only four per cent, New Brunswick has the lowest number of women in the country working in the trades.
A middle school student, 11-year-old Isabel Phinney, said it is something she would consider.
“I really enjoy it and I like to build things,” she said.
Donovan says Skills Canada New Brunswick is currently working with the province to develop training incentives to encourage more people to enter the trades, the details of which may be coming soon.