Labour Shortage in Lumber

One of the hot topics at the Montreal Wood Convention (MWC) this year was how the pandemic has impacted how work is done in the lumber industry. Discussing this topic were four heavy-hitters: Cees de Jager, CEO of the Softwood Lumber Board; Kevin Edgson, president and CEO of EACOM Timber Corporation; Craig Johnston, president and CEO of Forest City Trading Group; and Andy Goodman, president and CEO of Sherwood Lumber.

In a conversation about the labour crunch, all panelists agreed that the skilled labour shortage has led many companies to rely on off-site, prefabricated pieces for construction. Goodman explained the appeal here is that this change allows businesses to schedule workers more effectively.

“There has been an emphasis on all aspects of what we do in terms of control and quality,” he said. “And the control and quality of the work that comes out of off-site construction has proved to be better than on-site. So, I think it’s here to stay, and it will continue to go higher.”

There was also the question of who builds with wood. Despite unemployment levels approaching their pre-pandemic state, the CEOs all noted that their companies are still facing labour shortages, which greatly impacts the industry as a whole.

“It’s a matter of education to us, in terms of what’s required to encourage people to come join us, and, quite frankly, us educating those people on what those opportunities are,” explained Edgeson. “The source of that solution is going to lie in parts of the population that are not currently well-represented in our industry, both in gender and visible minorities. To engage those populations, we first have to recognize what it is about our industry that is not attractive, and we have to make sure there is discovery of opportunities.”

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