by Heidi Riley
The Canadian Home Builders Association-PEI (CHBA-PEI) is the voice of residential construction across PEI and represents contractors, builders, trades, plumbing & heating, windows, interior design, electrical, building supply stores, and many more.
Alicia Packwood is the Executive Officer of CHBA-PEI. “In 2020, the industry ramped up with many people deciding to sell and build. We have seen that trend continue into this year. It is busier now than before the pandemic started, as people are investing in their properties since travel is limited.
“Home building starts are up on PEI and across Canada. Our builders are booking two or three years into the future, and many have building projects confirmed with deposits for 2024. Those future bookings translate into long-term job security for anyone working in residential construction. We are not seeing long lulls with layoffs – there is no longer an off-season for most workers in this sector.”
Alicia says the fluctuating price of lumber has been a major concern for builders but has not affected the demand for new housing. “At their highest point, lumber prices more than tripled from 2020. Even though prices have come down a little, they are still much higher than at the beginning of 2020. There were also shortages in products such as drywall, windows, hardware, and appliances. Builders were forced to use more expensive alternatives or delay projects.”
“The residential construction industry continually needs more workers,” says Alicia. “In early spring of 2021, we held a virtual job fair for our members. Most of their hiring needs are still valid now. Residential construction companies are always looking for employees.
“People interested in working in residential construction may want to get some actual experience in the field to find out what they like to do. Many of our members are willing to work with entry-level individuals. They don’t need extensive previous experience. The skills can be learned on the job. All they need is a passion for learning and a willingness to put in the work.”
Another employment opportunity
Energy Advisors are needed to do energy audits for homeowners interested in taking advantage of a Greener Homes Canada initiative which offers rebates to improve energy efficiency in their homes. Funding will be announced soon to train and hire more Energy Advisors across Canada.
“Currently, PEI has about 10 Energy Advisors, and more are needed,” says Alicia. “Those interested do not need an extensive background, but they should have a keen interest in learning. Candidates take a week of training, and the cost of the training is provided by the program.
“New Advisors work with a mentor for the first 12 homes. We expect this program to roll out in late fall.
“It is a really fun position. Advisors learn to use the equipment and then travel across PEI and do energy-loss tests and write a report for the homeowner on what changes would benefit their home.”
BuildForce Canada report about residential construction on PEI
According to BuildForce Canada, about 2,100 people were employed in the residential construction industry on PEI in 2021.
PEI was the only province to see a rise in construction employment in 2020, propelled through the pandemic by the expansion of new housing builds.
Construction demands are expected to accelerate in 2021, driven by a wave of public-sector investment alongside continued high levels of new-housing construction and an anticipated recovery in commercial and industrial investment.
Residential construction activity is anticipated to remain at current levels through 2021 and 2022, before decreasing in line with falling new-housing investment.
The construction labour force continues to age. Between 2020 and 2030, 1,500 workers are projected to retire. About 1,200 new entrants are expected to enter the industry, leaving a shortfall of 300 people.
Top jobs in residential construction
- Carpenter – “General contractors and specialty builders always need carpenters,” says Alicia. “Employers are looking for people with experience but are willing to take on Apprentices learning the trade and working towards their Red Seal certification.”
- Project Manager
- Construction supervisor
- Painters and decorators
- Installers and servicers
- Trades helpers and labourers
“Most employers are willing to offer training, competitive salaries, and benefits,” says Alicia. “They understand it is important to retain the employees they have and attract new entrants. One of our members trains his employees in every aspect of the build so that they can develop multiple skills. It takes about a year to fully train an employee on all the aspects of home building, but employees tend to stay longer because they enjoy the variety of work.”
Programs to help enter the trades
Youth Internship Program (SYnC) –www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/workforce-and-advanced-learning/youth-internship-program-sync
Trade HERizons – for women interested in entering the trades: www.wnpei.org/Trade-HERizons
PEI Construction Association Youth in Trades program: www.capei.ca
BuildForce Canada programs to attract women, First Nations, and youth to the trades: www.buildforce.ca
CHBA-PEI, which has about 30 members, is the provincial arm of the national organization. The provincial organization holds frequent events where members network with their peers and potential contacts. CHBA-PEI offers a variety of training opportunities, including fall arrest, elevated platform, and a practical scissors lift training at a member’s work site. Discounts are available for Atlantic Home Warranty and safety training, and the annual golf tournament.
Members of CHBA-PEI are also automatically members of the national organization, which offers discounts on such items as computer equipment, shipping rates, vehicle rentals, and hotel stays. Members also get access to surveys, statistics, and research generated by the national organization. High-level national training is also available.
For more information, contact Alicia Packwood at 902-393-2093 or email [email protected]
To check out the latest CHBA-PEI virtual job fair, visit www.youtu.be/1_vfX107z_8
For more about Buildforce Canada, visit www.buildforce.ca/en