Nova Scotia

Cape Breton to have an 'influx in construction' in the coming years

Cape Breton's construction industry is expected to heat up as several large builds are expected in Sydney and other areas over the next few years.

'There is a huge amount of work coming in that industry,' says Island Employment

Provincial infrastructure projects such as the relocation of NSCC's Marconi campus are expected to bring a high volume of constructions jobs to Cape Breton this year. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

Cape Breton's construction industry is expected to heat up over the next few years.

Máire Neville, an engagement specialist with Island Employment, said the organization is helping employers secure skilled workers by facilitating training and retraining for job seekers. 

The province is driving demand through its relocation of NSCC's Marconi campus and the health-care redevelopment of hospitals within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. 

"We are going to see an influx in construction," said Neville. "There is a huge amount of work coming in that industry. It will be over the next few years, depending on what the trade is."

Neville said most projects will be carried out in stages, meaning demand might be high for concrete workers at one point, followed by electricians and roofers at another. 

Máire Neville has been working as the employment engagement specialist for Island Employment since June. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

Island Employment, a non-profit organization, is funded by the province and operates six locations around Cape Breton, including one in Sydney, and offers guidance to job seekers and employers.

Neville said Island Employment can connect people with resources necessary to expand their skills and education.

"If you are interested in the trades in any way, do reach out ... and we will hopefully match you and help you develop those skill so that when they do get to that level of the construction, you are ready to go," she said. 

Carla Arsenault, president and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, said she's seeing a jobs opening up across a variety of sectors. 

"We are for sure seeing, you know, retirement of the baby boomers," Arsenault said. "And and with that comes the host of things. It's not just people retiring from their jobs, it's also people looking at transitioning their business, looking at succession planning."

Carla Arsenault, president and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership, said jobs are opening up on the island as many baby boomers are retiring. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

The private-sector-led economic development organization recently launched an online job board with hopes of linking workers with employment opportunities on the island.

Bringing workers home

Jack Wall, president of the Cape Breton Building Trades Union, recently told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton that many rotational workers are now deciding to stay home.

"Right now, the next couple of years, we're going to be very lucky," he said. "There is a lot of work coming to Cape Breton in the construction industry."

Wall said construction projects are expected in Membertou and Eskasoni, along with planned apartment buildings in the Sydney area.

He said some people who have worked in western Canada will have to retrain for the positions.

"A lot of our trades now are apprenticeable trades, so you have to be a red seal or your have to be an indentured apprentice to work in a lot of these trades," he said. 

"There's going to be some training coming up that these people might be able to upgrade themselves and get a job home."


With files from Brittany Wentzell and Information Morning Cape Breton