In: ConstructionNews

The Ontario Construction Secretariat’s (OCS) annual Contractor Survey revealed that Ontario contractors are expecting 2024 to be a busy year.

According to the survey, while there are still concerns about rising costs for materials and labour, there has been a noted improvement in the supply chain and growing interest in innovation and technology to increase productivity and lower costs.

The survey noted that over two-thirds of the contractors surveyed (66 per cent) are feeling positive about the coming year. Among unionized workplaces, that number was 71 per cent.

“There is a massive project pipeline in Ontario that is fuelling positivity about business prospects,” said Robert Bronk, chief executive officer of the OCS. “Power generation, transit and health-care facilities are leading the list of projects currently under construction or slated for construction over the next few years in every region of the province.”

The survey noted that regionally, prospects are “most positive” in Northern Ontario, in response to increased mining and institutional projects. Contractors in Eastern Ontario, however, anticipate “a breather” in 2024.

Building trade unions and their contractor partners continue to be leaders in apprenticeship training, according to the survey, with 78 per cent of union contractors reporting having apprentices as part of their team, in comparison to only half of non-union contractors.

The survey noted that there is also a strong support for the adoption of new technologies. A total of 83 per cent of those surveyed feel that adopting new tech is important to the future of their business, and 15 per cent have created a budget to invest in new technology. The most commonly used technologies, according to the survey, were BIM (44 per cent) and jobsite data collection apps (43 per cent).

Ongoing labour challenges remain a concern, with 65 per cent reporting that they expect recruiting skilled workers to be more difficult in 2024 and nearly half (48 per cent) citing the availability of experienced skilled labour as the top concern in 2024, according to the survey.

A total of 34 per cent of respondents expect their workforce to be larger this year, against only eight per cent who expect the number of people they employ to drop.

The survey noted that one in five open-ended responses cited increasing prices, whether it was for labour, materials, or higher interest rates. Following availability of labour, material costs (28 per cent), labour costs (27 per cent) and transportation costs (25 per cent) were listed as the top concerns for this year.

“Despite a mostly positive outlook for ICI construction in 2024, the rising costs we are all facing remain a concern,” said Bronk. “But it is encouraging that despite this worry, there are still strong expectations for growth and expansion over the coming year, with many contractors implementing new technologies to help create efficiencies and support business success.”

The OCS Contractor Survey polls Ontario’s institutional, commercial and industrial construction sector. The survey was conducted via phone interview with 500 contractors between November 2023 and January 2024, including union and non-union companies.

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