By Corry Anderson-Fennell – BCBT Communications Director

There is a crisis in construction, and women are part of the solution.

According to BuildForce Canada, 254,800 people, or 21 per cent of the current construction workforce, is expected to retire by 2027. That’s 14,000 more people retiring than are expected to enter the construction industry over the same period.

The outlook for British Columbia is especially grim. BuildForce data indicates that 40,800 construction workers will retire by 2027, and only 32,800 people will enter the industry. BuildForce notes, “The growing rate of retirements and the less than adequate supply of locally available replacement workers will mean the industry will, with increasing regularity, be required to recruit workers from outside the province’s construction sector or outside the industry.”

“We’ve got a skilled trades shortage in B.C. and the rest of Canada, and hiring and retaining women are among the ways we can manage this shortage and ensure our province remains prosperous,” said International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 commercial transportation mechanic Chelsea French, who is also co-chair of Build TogetHER, the women’s committee of the BC Building Trades.

And these aren’t the only benefits to hiring women. The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum developed a business case for hiring women on the job site. According to the study, women give organizations a competitive advantage through increased productivity, enhanced reputation and employer loyalty. Women-dominated teams have an eye for detail, and they bring a perspective that supports successful business strategies.

“Even though jobs in construction are some of the most well-paid and rewarding ways to make a living, women make up only four per cent of the industry,” notes Ashley Duncan, co-chair of Build TogetHER BC and vice-president of the BC Insulators Local 118. “There are a lot of reasons for that, but among them is that many in the industry haven’t yet figured out the competitive advantage they have when women are on the job site.”

While not unique to the construction industry, another study by the California-based Anita Borg Institute found that organizations committed to improving the balance of women in the workforce benefit from improved operational and financial performance, increased innovation, better problem solving skills, and more effective teamwork.

If you don’t like reading research papers and studies, it all boils down to this: Hire women. Do better.