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Mass retirement exodus to leave hole in B.C.’s labour market

B.C.’s set to see a lot of retirement parties over the next decade, as about two thirds of the provincial workforce is set to leave their jobs by 2031.

That’s according to the province’s latest Labour Market Outlook, which predicts this will lead to an influx of job opportunities to replace those retiring workers.

Across the whole economy, B.C. is going to have about a million job openings through 2031 and 77 per cent of them will require some level of post-secondary education, the province predicts.

Nursing shortage expected to worsen

Among the sectors set to see the biggest holes is the health-care industry, wherein nursing alone will leave 26,000 vacancies by 2031.

BC Nurses Union president Aman Grewal says there are already shortages and the province needs a plan in order to have trained staff ready as soon as possible.

Among the frustrations is that trained foreign nurses are stuck in bureaucratic delays in getting certified to work in B.C.

“What we need to do is have less barriers for internationally educated nurses to gain their license here in B.C., expedite the process for them to be registered, embrace their skills and diversity,” Grewal said.

“If you’re having the same education and writing the same exam, why are you having to wait, especially during this staffing crisis in the middle of a pandemic? Then we have nurses that have worked 20 years in Saudi Arabia, they’ve got the clinical skills why Is that process of credentialing them taking so long?”

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“We need a plan and we needed that to happen a few years ago but you know we will take whatever we can get in terms of funding to get as many seats as we can into the nursing system.”

The outlook shows the median hourly salary for nurses is competitive compared to other jobs in the province. On average, a nurse will make $40/hour, which is overall higher than a college instructor, an accountant, a social worker, and teachers.

But Grewal says despite many wanting to become nurses, there are long waitlists to get into nursing schools and urges the province to open up more spots.

“We need a plan and we needed that to happen a few years ago but you know we will take whatever we can get in terms of funding to get as many seats as we can into the nursing system,” she said.

Hiring blitz expected post-pandemic

In British Columbia, five industries will account for about half of the total job openings projected over the next 10 years: Health-care and social assistance (14 per cent),professional, scientific, and technical services (14 per cent), retail (10 per cent), construction (8 per cent) and accommodation and food services (7 per cent).

B.C. Labour force top skills for the future include listening, speaking, critical thinking, and reading

The province predicts job seekers and workers can benefit by understanding the
skills and competencies employers need. (

B.C.’s hard-hit accommodation sector is seeing slower optimism after it was devastated by the pandemic and travel restrictions. The province predicts it will only see a return to its pre-pandemic levels by 2027, in part because business travel is not expected to be a priority after the surge in virtual meetings and communication models over the last two years. However, the province predicts food services like restaurants and bars will need some 50,000 additional workers by 2031.

Read more: Canada’s COVID-19 international travel restrictions not discussed in premier’s meeting

Construction, which has already seen similar worker shortages in recent years in skilled trades, is predicted to have to replace 77 per cent of those currently working over the next decade. It’s expected that will, combined with expansion job openings, create more than 76,000 employment opportunities for prospective workers.

Read more: B.C. real estate sales forecast to drop in 2022, prices to still rise: BCREA

The only sector which is expected to lose jobs is forestry, the province says. With negative growth rates in store for the coming years, instead of expanding job creation, it’s actually predicted to lose more than 5,000 opportunities.

A snap shot of a graph from B.C. Labour Market Survey

Forestry is among B.C.’s top employment sector, but is predicted to lose hundreds of jobs over the next ten years despite hiring booms expected in construction and the ongoing housing market demands. (

With files from Martin MacMahon

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