Reflecting back on a unique year for our industry
December 3, 2020 By Andrew Snook
I imagine after the year we’ve had that December 31 will be a wild party for many people. Granted, it might be many wild parties of one, where people celebrate with dozens of their closest friends over a Zoom meeting or Google Hangouts, but a wild party nonetheless!
Between the giant murder hornets, the most heated U.S. election in modern day history, devastating forest fires and, of course, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, this will certainly be a year many will not soon forget (despite some people’s best efforts).
The introduction of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic this past March put the entire world into disarray. So, it was not surprising that Canada’s construction sector was impacted along with every other industry. Many people in the construction sector felt an impact immediately with the pandemic declared in the midst of the largest industry trade show in North America, CONEXPO-CON/AGG (I still remember seeing the World Health Organization declare COVID-19 an official pandemic on a television in the main cafeteria area of the Las Vegas Convention Center). CONEXPO-CON/AGG organizers made the decision to end the show a day early, which made perfect sense. I remember flying home and being told I need to stay under quarantine for 14 days in my home. For me, this wasn’t an issue. After all, I’m a writer and editor. A large part of my job can be done from anywhere and is often done from my home office. But most people in the industry need to be out at worksites, so two-week-long quarantines weren’t exactly ideal (on the positive side, at least it happened in March).
From there, the construction industry was presented challenges that the sector had never faced before, including new safety rules and protocols that seemed like they were changing as quickly as you changed your shifts; forced quarantine of workers for the mildest of symptoms; and job sites facing potential shutdowns on a regular basis, causing any previous forecasting to be tossed right out the window.
But despite all of these challenges, the construction industry on the whole has weathered the storm fairly well across most of the country, given these unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances. The construction sector has experienced limited shutdowns compared to other industries that, in some cases, have been completely gutted by the pandemic. Overall employment numbers are certainly still down significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels (down 110,000 from February 2020 according to the October 2020 Labour Force Survey published by Statistics Canada), but let’s try and remember that these numbers are temporary. The construction sector is still facing massive deficits in terms of skilled workers that will be needed to meet future demands.
Let’s also try and remember that the pandemic is a temporary situation. Many of the smartest scientific and medical minds around the globe are currently working with global pharmaceutical giants and the world’s governments on the creation and distribution of vaccines to battle the coronavirus. So, in the meantime, let’s keep working away as best we can and hope for a safe and productive 2021 filled with news of successful vaccines and new infrastructure projects.
Take care and stay safe out there.
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