Newfoundland, Labrador to face worker shortage

Newfoundland and Labrador will face a major shortage of workers over the next decade as baby boomers retire and resource development projects get underway, according to a provincial government report.

Newfoundland and Labrador is facing a major shortage of workers over the next decade as baby boomers retire and resource development projects get underway, according to a  provincial government report.

Released Wednesday, the report titled Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Outlook 2020 projected that there will be 70,000 job openings in the province by 2020.

"In recent years our focus has been on building the skilled trades workforce that we need for our major project developments," said the province's Minister of Human Resources, Trade and Employment Darin King at a news conference on Wednesday. "Now we need to build on this approach, broaden our focus to all all sectors across our economy."

The report said in addition to skilled trades, the vast majority of job postings will be in health, sales and service, and management. The jobs will be spread all over the province.

The report also indicated that jobs could be filled by new post-secondary graduates, immigrants, people moving to Newfoundland and Labrador from other provinces, and seniors taking on second careers.

"We're looking at an incredible sea change," said Lana Payne, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, after King's presentation. "Where we've had an oversupply of workers and not enough work, to a situation where we're going to have incredible opportunities for working people in our province."

Payne said she expects some industries will restructure as a result of these labour changes, and current workers will need retraining to move into areas where there are job shortages. She added that there will be competition for workers across Canada as other provinces face aging populations, so local unions and management must develop recruitment and retainment strategies for workers during collective bargaining.

Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, agreed that competition for workers will be intense. But for employers in Newfoundland and Labrador to retain workers, he said the government must lower employer taxes.

"We still have that payroll tax, the health and post-secondary education tax,  we still have the highest workers' compensation premiums that go right on the salaries that employers pay in this province."

Alexander said if government lowers those taxes, employers will be able to offer higher wages and benefits to workers.