Housing Crunch: Finding workers tough for expanding industry

Jobs and wages are rising fast in construction.

The owner of a local construction firm said the current building boom is giving people a lot of work, but also causing some problems for local contractors.

“I would say the biggest impact is the lack of quality workers,” said Bob Barrette, owner of Watercrest Construction.

Barrette has been in the industry since 1991, and has run his own small firm for almost 11 years.

They do work on foundations and rough carpentry, with about 80 per cent of their work right now in residential construction.

Hiring has become difficult, and without the ability to get good workers, it’s having an impact on some jobs, Barrette said.

“Definitely project delays,” he said.

There may also be quality workmanship issues on some projects, he said.

According to BC Stats, employment is rising in construction quite rapidly. Construction jobs in July this year were up 9.3 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

The only job sector that saw a higher increase included real estate professionals – employment there rose by 13 per cent.

The need for new workers is also driving wage increases in construction jobs.

The average wage in construction, across all trades, was $21.86 an hour in 2007. By 2011, the wage had risen to $25.28. As of this summer, it’s hovering in the range of $28.42, according to BC Stats.

In the most recent statistics for Langley for 2016, residential construction alone accounted for 4,650 jobs on- and off-site, and generated $271 million in wages, according to the Canadian Home Builders Association.

The industry is one of the largest employers in the province.

Larger employers, like Peter Warkentin of Quadra Homes, have also noticed that it’s becoming harder to find enough qualified workers.

Warkentin told the Advance that some trades are seeing shortages, and that framers were hard to come by over the summer. Some of the shortfall was being made up by workers moving to the West Coast from Alberta, which has seen slower job growth thanks to the lower price of oil.

As for Barrette, he said he’s still surprised that the boom times just seem to keep going.

“I wouldn’t have thought it would have lasted this long,” Barrette said. “I don’t see it slowing down.”