Tackling Alberta’s Skilled Labour Shortage


Alberta may still be Canada’s economic engine, but it needs to do a better job of matching skills with the needs of the economy if it hopes to remain at the front of the pack. The province’s future prosperity is under threat from a lack of skilled tradespeople. 

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum predicts Alberta will need 26,000 new journeypersons and 51,000 new apprentices in the top 15 Red Seal Trades by 2026 to meet industry demand. According to a new BuildForce Canada report, the province will need 20,000 skilled workers to support $22 billion worth of resource value-added projects between now and 2030. 

Fortunately, Alberta has two advantages over most provinces: a fast-growing, younger-than-average population and a government willing to tackle the challenge head on. In 2021, the provincial government released a 10-year strategy to advance the skills and training needed to grow Alberta’s economy. 

Part of the plan is to build the labour force we need in the trades. Without these skilled trades, Alberta’s economic growth will suffer. 

Thanks to the prospect of good paying jobs and successful initiatives like the Alberta is Calling campaign, the province has the youngest population in the country. Now is the time to convince these newcomers – as well as the young Albertans already here – to pursue careers in the skilled trades. 

Alberta is home to some of the best polytechnic and applied sciences institutes in not just Canada, but the world. Here in Edmonton, for instance, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) has empowered more than 218,000 graduates with economy-building skills since it opened its doors in 1962. 

NAIT offers practical, hands-on education through instructors with real-world experience and its impact is evident across the province, from the Industrial Heartland region to our diversifying energy industry to our burgeoning innovation and tech sector. 

A renowned innovator, NAIT has always evolved its educational offerings to meet the shifting needs of the economy. In October, for instance, NAIT and Rogers announced they’re partnering on two 5G-enabled test environments with the aim of fuelling innovation of 5G-enabled technologies, which are expected to create 22 million jobs and contribute $12.3 trillion to GDP globally by 2035. 

With its eyes on the horizon, NAIT is looking beyond what it teaches to how it teaches. As skilled trades and technologies change at home and around the globe, NAIT wants to break down silos and encourage collaboration and integrated instruction to achieve better ways of thinking, learning and training. 

One of the ways it hopes to do so is through an advanced skills centre designed in partnership with industry. The goal will be to provide students and industry with a shared space to imagine, explore and develop the latest technologies and industry-changing innovations together. Through the centre, NAIT also seeks to encourage more women and under-represented students to pursue skilled trades and technology careers. 

NAIT’s trailblazing approach holds great promise for Alberta’s labour market. The opportunity to learn and collaborate with industry leaders – and the potential to secure a good-paying job in an in-demand field – will entice many Albertans looking for rewarding employment in an increasingly tumultuous economy. 

By following NAIT’s lead and embracing innovation in education and training, Alberta can build the skilled, vibrant workforce needed to diversify and grow our economy. It’s a sound blueprint; we just need to follow it.