Even as digital transformation sweeps across the Western world, construction trades remain as topical as ever.
It’s obvious why.
The nation of Canada added 300,000 more people in the first three months of this year, Statistics Canada reported recently, with 98% of growth coming from immigrants.
This policy-driven population growth, combined with already unaffordable housing, puts tremendous pressure on the nation’s housing construction pipeline. Based on government-set immigration levels, Canada is on track to add more people than houses each year for the foreseeable future.
And yet everyone needs somewhere to live, don’t they?
The intersection of two major forces, technology and construction, is salient domain. On one hand, tech is streamlining building approval—digitizing paperwork for efficiency. In another way, tech aims to cultivate accessibility and affordability of homeownership for Canadians, as well as open up new avenues for investors to maximize their capital. Other technologies target building materials and the construction process itself, innovating the physical act of building a house.
In fact, there is so much intertwining occurring that “intersection” may no longer be accurate. It is perhaps better to say that tech and trades are now enmeshed.
Increasingly, educational institutions across Canada are looking to infuse tech into the trades as they skill our future workforce—and innovative companies continue to advance construction through tech as the industry boom roars on.
Tech-Forward Trades in Alberta
The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has long recognizing this trend of enmeshing.
The Institute launched The School of Construction to provide students with a foundation to build a rewarding career in the construction industry without ignoring the impact of tech.
The key at SAIT’s School is an intentional blending of tech and trade.
For example, on campus is the Trades and Technology Complex, which at over 700,000 square feet is the largest expansion in the century-long history of SAIT.
And in addition to the Tech Complex, the Thomas Riley Building houses the Founding Builders Home Lab. Located at the west end of the U wing, the Lab provides students in Civil Engineering Technology and Architectural Technologies the opportunity to put theory into practice through the construction of a residential home.
SAIT’s School of Construction offers degrees and diploma programs such as Architectural Technologies, Bachelor of Applied Technology Geographic Information Systems, Bachelor of Science Construction Project Management, Civil Engineering Technology, and Geomatics Engineering Technology.
TradeUp for a StrongerBC
Moving forward, though we know that demand for tech skills remains—especially around coveted roles. Momentum in tech has slowed, perhaps even stalled, but not reversed.
The Province of British Columbia recently launched the “StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan” to address a skills gap many businesses are facing and help thousands of people get the necessary skills to succeed in the changing economy.
The action plan aims to help people reskill and upskill to find in-demand jobs in tech and beyond so that employers facing current and future skills shortages can find the people they need.
The plan includes measures that will break down barriers to help people enter the workforce and increase the number of students with job-ready skills needed for the workforce, including health-care professions, teachers, construction jobs, and other key sectors, according to a statement from the Government of BC.
“Work is transforming, and we have more job openings than skilled people,” stated Premier David Eby. “That’s why we are taking action to make sure people are ready to seize new opportunities and build a good life here in BC, and businesses are able find the people who drive our economy forward and deliver the services we all rely on.”
B.C.’s latest Labour Market Outlook forecasts one million job openings over the next decade, and that includes many opportunities within both tech and the trades.
According to the Outlook, 80% of all new jobs over the net decade will require some level of post-secondary education or training. The increasing presence of up-skilling programs in Canada may prove important to help fill gaps.
The Emily Carr University of Art + Design is an example of an opportunity presented by the skills grant. The grant covers ECU’s micro-credential programs offered through Continuing Studies, which are short-term courses specifically designed to equip students with the essential skills required in tech, construction, and clean energy.
In this vein, the Province is also establishing TradeUpBC. This program will serve as a continuing education hub for in-demand jobs in the trades, targeting certified or experienced workers to provide valuable skills that complement but do not replace apprentice training. Over three years, it’s estimated that up to 6,000 people will benefit from short-term training and TradeUpBC.
Employment in BC is expected to reach 3.1 million by 2032, according to the 10-year forecast, up from 2.7 million jobs in 2022. Vancouver’s tech scene employs 92,000, a figure which has nearly tripled since 2010.
Canada’s Construction Craze Continues
As the ghost of the pandemic recedes, North America grapples with a dual problem. An escalating demand for housing—Canada requires five million new homes by 2030—dances with a growing number of deserted office spaces, a trend which threatens to hollow out downtown cores, often the soul of a city.
Developers are keeping the construction industry booming with projects that convert unused offices in downtown cores into mixed-used, residential-based buildings that increase housing supply and restore neglected urban neighbourhoods.
Arthrotó intends to strike partnerships covering a gamut of aspects, from prefab interior structures to building information management systems, smart home tech, and AI-powered design tools.
“The launch of Arthrotó marks a groundbreaking evolution in the housing industry as we strive to repurpose underutilized office spaces into thriving residential and mixed-use communities,” says Doug Hayden, founder of Arthrotó. “By leveraging the principles that have existed for decades in prefabricated, pre-finished, volumetric construction for office spaces, Arthrotó applies massive gains in productivity.”
Founded in 2021, Calgary’s Peoplefirst is also part of Canada’s emerging movement toward converting unused office space into residential units ready for occupation.
The company partnered with Vancouver fintech addy to fund The Cornerstone, a 10-story, 129,000-square-foot office building. It is set to undergo conversion into 112 two- and three-bedroom residential units with co-working and retail space.
In addition to these examples, a slew of other Canadian startups are further innovating the construction market at every touchpoint of the process.
More than 200,000 homes are built each month in Canada. This sounds like a big number but it’s nowhere near enough.
The construction craze is poised to continue, offering Canadians stable and rewarding careers in trades that are increasingly infused with tech.