If you think there are more construction cranes around the capital city these days, you wouldn’t be wrong.
The City of Victoria is in the middle of a building boom. One thousand downtown residential units are under construction, along with two large-scale office projects.
“A lot of the pillars are going up faster than I would’ve expected to, so they’re really moving along,” Victoria resident Rick Murphy said.
But it seems to have hit a tipping point.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says it comes down to one thing: “We need more workers.”
The City has decided to delay breaking ground on at least one project – the first leg of the separated bike path network worth more than $2 million.
It has extended the deadline for its tender call in hope of attracting more bids, which will likely result in an extension of the construction time.
“It’s a really good challenge to have,” Helps said. “People are investing in this city like no other time and that’s good news. We just need to make sure we can build the workforce to keep the building happening.”
The demand for skilled workers is so great, construction companies are starting to look outside B.C.’s borders, specifically targeting Alberta’s laid-off oil patch workers. But it’s not always a perfect fit.
Kinetic Construction’s President and CEO Tom Blumb says, “There’s not a kind of direct connection between the trades available there and what we need here. You actually have to grow your own.”
Or offer the training. The province is looking to capitalize on the thousands making their way back to B.C. by providing them with the necessary in-demand skills.
“We’re seeing increased training all across British Columbia very focused on in-demand trades, Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond said. “We’ve seen significant net in-migration over the past number of months – thousands of people coming to find work. We have jobs looking for people, and that’s a problem we’d much rather have than the reverse.”
With the boom projected to last for several years, the problem isn’t going to end anytime time soon. It will be up to the City to come up with a strategy to handle things moving forward.