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HRM is getting into the ring to fight for skilled construction workers to build housing.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council voted to spend $208,572 to hire a recruiter to travel the country and the world to encourage skilled employees – particularly those working in construction – to move to Halifax.

“This is kind of a down payment on what would be a pilot project,” said Coun. Waye Mason (Halifax South Downtown). He added this project will come with a clear metric because they’ll be able to see how many people have been recruited.

Mason said the lack of labour available to build housing in HRM is a real concern.

BuildForce Canada, which collects data on the construction industry, forecasts that about 16 per cent of construction workers in Nova Scotia will retire by 2027. And in order to keep up with construction demand, HRM needs about 6,200 more tradespeople by 2027.

“The need is extremely high in Halifax,” Mason said.

The money is being directed to the Halifax Partnership where president and CEO Wendy Luther said they will hire a recruiter for a one-year pilot project who would work internationally to bring in workers.

There’s an acute need for labour in pretty much every sector in HRM, Luther said, but this pilot project will start with the housing industry.

The cost for the recruiter is pegged at around $120,000 with another $50,00 for travel expenses and $30,000 for other costs like communications and business engagement.

We might want to start in Alberta, suggested Mayor Mike Savage, taking a dig at the western province that launched a recruitment campaign targeting skilled workers in Ontario and Atlantic Canada last week. Savage added that the province needs to be heavily engaged in this issue because they have deeper pockets.

Luther said the province is actively recruiting and the $200,000 allows HRM to participate with them on that level.

“This brings HRM to the table along with the other partners,” she said.

Creative solutions needed

While it sounds like there are lot of jobs out there, there are still a lot of people here who aren’t making enough money or satisfied with their employment, said Coun. Becky Kent (Dartmouth South – Eastern Passage). She said she’s worried that by looking out of province, there’s a missed opportunity here.

“Have we done enough to look at our population that is here now?”

Luther responded that the partnership is already helping with that issue with connector and networking programs that bring together the trades sector and post-secondary institutions with people who previously wouldn’t see themselves in that line of work. She said they primarily target recent grads and newcomers.

Coun. Pam Lovelace (Hammonds Plains – St. Margarets) wanted to know what could be done to support local employers, particularly in HRM’s rural communities, who are having labour troubles because of inadequate housing.

Luther said there are a number of interconnected issues at play that need to be addressed holistically.

“Talent is sited as the number one barrier to business growth, not just in HRM but around the world,” she said.

Solutions need to be creative, she said, like the modular housing for health-care workers and skilled tradespeople the province announced last week.  Another one could be securing empty residences at post-secondary institutions in the off season. Luther said these are a few of the ideas they’ll be exploring.


Story by: Saltwire