Recruitment & Retention Project

The heavy construction industry is experiencing significant labour shortages and over the next decade, Canada will see more than one-fifth of its construction labour force retire. The exit of 2 in 10 construction workers to retirement represents a significant loss of skills and experience.

NCHCA’s top priority is to improve the recruitment and retention of workers in the heavy construction industry. To do so, we must improve public perception of the heavy construction industry so that it is considered to be an attractive, sustainable career choice.

In 2020, NCHCA undertook a multi-year recruitment project with funding from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to address industry labour shortages in the Ottawa area.

In the Ottawa region, the heavy construction sector is expected to see employment rise to a peak of 8,500 workers by 2022 – an increase of 870 jobs, or an 11% increase compared to the 7,620 workers active in the sector in 2020. In addition to meeting near-term expansion requirements, Ottawa’s heavy construction sector will also need to replace an estimated 1,660 retiring workers, or approximately 22% of the 2020 workforce, between 2021 and 2029. When coupled with demand, the net hiring requirements for the industry over the course of the decade is just over 1,490 workers. This figure excludes turnover, which can be as high as 30-40% among new labourer hires.

Recognizing that not enough people are entering the industry and committing to careers in heavy construction, NCHCA’s Recruitment Project was initiated to improve perception of the heavy construction industry in Ottawa to make it an attractive, long-term career choice. The objective of the Project was to develop strategies and solutions to address the current and anticipated labour shortages in the heavy construction industry through testable solutions for recruitment and retention programs.

The following approach was used:

  • An understanding the current landscape was developed through an environmental scan including a literature review, a statistical review, and interviews with industry stakeholders to gather the best available evidence on the trends that need to be considered when formulating a long-term strategy to meet the skill needs of the National Capital Region’s heavy construction sector. Recruitment strategies that have yielded some successes in recruiting workers into the construction sector were identified. Please see the Heavy Civil Labour Demand & Environmental Scan Report.
  • A job matching exercise and analysis of skills transferability was conducted to identify occupations with skills and knowledge that are at least partially transferrable to the heavy construction sector. Identifying these occupations and the industries that employ them provides a basis for assessing how much scope there may be for a recruitment strategy that targets workers with skills and knowledge that are at least partially transferrable to the heavy construction industry, thereby reducing the required up-front investment in training by employers.
  • Strategies and solutions including promoting a positive perception of the construction industry so that it is perceived as an attractive, sustainable career choice, identifying barriers to recruitment and retention, creating a focused communications strategy and job opportunity resources available to the public were considered.
  • Industry stakeholders identified potential strategies and solutions through a series of workshops by considering which leverage points – obstacles and opportunities – would have an impact if overcome and achieved
  • Four strategy working groups were convened to consider
    • Exploring ways to improve working conditions in the industry
    • Expanding the current labour pool
    • Connecting with high school students and the school system
    • Supporting people to develop their careers at all levels of the industry

The Project Report is under development and will be available on our website when it is complete.

For more information, please contact Kathryn Sutherland at

This Employment Ontario project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario

Canada Employment Ontario