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October 21, 2020

P.E.I. builders struggling to fill construction jobs

There are currently more than 500 job openings in P.E.I.’s construction industry, and with an aging workforce employers expect it will continue to be difficult to fill vacant positions.

While the construction industry struggled across the country during the pandemic, on P.E.I. it scarcely missed a beat, even after years of strong growth. From January to May, construction investment was up almost 10 per cent over 2019. In three months this year, investment has topped $70 million, seasonally adjusted — a rate it never hit in previous years.

Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I., said the kind of growth the industry has seen tends to be self-sustaining.

“When investors are seeing that kind of growth — steady growth and opportunity, you know — they want to be part of it,” said Sanderson.

Meanwhile, the industry is struggling to keep up.

Lucas Arsenault, vice-president of Arsenault Bros Construction, said the difficulty with finding employees is affecting his company’s ability to grow.

“You have to pick and choose what you’re bidding and what you take on,” said Arsenault.

“You never want to say no but sometimes you just have to. People have to wait.”

With 1,500 retirements expected in the next 10 years, there is a potential for the problem to get worse.

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