Toronto, ON — Over the next five years, Canada will face a shortage of at least 10,000 workers in the 56 high-demand Red Seal Trades, according to a report conducted by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) titled “Powering Up: Preparing Canada’s skilled trades for a post-pandemic economy.” In addition, the deficit could be 10 times more significant when the 250 provincially regulated trades are included.
The report highlights that chronic problems in the trades pipeline, including underused pools of talent and a widening digital skills gap, will need to be addressed by educators, employers and policymakers. Additionally, 25 per cent of Canada’s four million tradespeople will need to upgrade their skills within five years amid significant digital disruption.
According to the report, the digital skills gap was accelerated by the pandemic through technological change. The transformation not only included the tools available to tradespeople but also the skills needed to operate them. For example, 3D technology and diagnostic tools have become more common in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
By 2028, more than 700,000 skilled tradespeople will retire. The report states that the skilled trades industry has had difficulty attracting new people, with young people, women, and immigrants being the targeted demographics. In manufacturing, one-quarter of the workforce is aged 55 or older, and less than 10 per cent of workers are under the age of 25.
The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum estimates Canada will face a gap of more than 60,000 registered apprentices by 2025 after new registrations plunged 37 per cent last year. For example, women made up just 11 per cent of new registrants for apprenticeship programs in 2019 and they continue to represent less than four per cent of workers in the most in-demand trapes.
Immigrants made up just 8.7 per cent of apprentices despite accounting for more than 20 per cent of the population. In addition, Canada is falling short of its goal to bring in 3,000 skilled tradespeople annually through immigration, admitting 2,365 newcomers in 2019 through the federal Skilled Trades Program.
Over the next five years, many provinces are expected to see significant shortages, notably in B.C, the Atlantic provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan. On the other hand, Quebec will have a surplus, and Ontario and Manitoba will be relatively balanced.
The most severe shortages among the trades will include industrial mechanics, welders, and boilermakers. The report highlights that shortfalls will be extreme in individual trades and within specific sub-regions.