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Hamilton, ON L8W 0C7

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Hamilton, ON L8W 3R4

Industrial Coating Sector Labour Shortage

A major issue facing the industrial coatings sector right now is industry wide labour shortages. The lack of new workers entering the trade and surge of workers leaving the trade are just some examples of shortages that are creating issues with project completion and availability of services. With an under abundance of Painters and Coatings Inspectors, the labour force in this sector continues to dwindle due to the following causes:

  • Lack of education and experience
  • Retirement and
  • Rising addiction and mental health issues

Canada Skilled Trades Shortage. RBC

Education and Experience

The first issue impacting the industry is lack of education and experience. An Industrial Coatings Professional only requires a high school grade ten, completion of a 6000-hour apprenticeship program, and completion of the Red Seal Certificate (IUAPT, n.d).

Red Seal Trades Shortage. RBC


In the early and late 60’s, Industrial Painters used mostly coal tars, lead-based alkyds, and vinyl on bridges, dams, and water treatment plants. These products were, and still are, considered the best of the best because of their ease of application. Often requiring minimal surface preparation and offering protection for the steel over decades. These three specific coatings, due to their simplicity, required little education and training as compared to today’s coatings. However, because of the toxic traits of these coatings, such as lead, carcinogens, and high VOCs, they were banned for use on most surfaces in the late ’60s.

The education required to apply these types of coatings was sufficient because their simplicity of application required very little education and experience. However, the coating industry has changed dramatically since then. We now have two-part epoxies, urethanes, water-based coatings, moisture-cured coatings, and polyureas. Since developing these coatings, our industry has adjusted to stricter quality requirements such as ambient temperatures, relative humidity, dew point, surface temperatures, surface profile, surface cleanliness, application equipment, and techniques. Combining the new generation of protective coatings in conjunction with the strict application guidelines requires the applicator to have much higher levels of education and experience working with chemicals and understanding corrosion.

According to RBC,” Canada will face a shortage of at least 10,000 workers in nationally recognized Red Seal trades over that period—a deficit that swells tenfold when 250 provincially regulated trades are included.”

Aging population

The next issue is the retirement of the baby boomers which has a significant impact on the entire trade, including management and supervision. The number of Industrial Painters has dropped significantly over the past thirty years to the point that Union members had to start taking from their own wages to replenish the pension fund due to the surge of retiring baby boomers and the inability to replenish the halls with new workers. Furthermore, management and supervisors that once worked in the field have now moved into office position and as a result, have not shared estimating, job planning, and operations with the next generation.

An aging population will continue to boost retirements and lower the share of the population participating in labour markets—removing roughly 600,000 workers. RBC

Addiction and Mental Heath

The final issue affecting the Industrial Coating Sector is the ongoing rise in addiction and mental health issues. This issue has been around for a while; however, COVID-19 has had a negative impact it’s prevalence in the community and in the trades. We are now competing against opioids and alcohol. It’s no surprise that there is a rise in addiction and mental health issues in the construction industry.

Top causes if unemployment in America. Mckinsey.com

Typical construction jobs are based out of town or on the road. This lifestyle fosters issues by isolating the individual from family, friends, and loved ones. Isolation is a leading factor in increasing the potential of addiction and mental health issues.  Also, the amount of money these individuals make while on the road allows for the funds to drink and party with others. Businesses have a responsibility to manage these projects properly by considering the effects of addiction and mental health on their staff.

According to ConstructConnect. Pandemic has contributed to an increase in substance use among construction workers. 35% increase in alcohol use and 31% increase in drug use

To summarize, labour shortages in our current market are a direct result of lack of education and experience, limited government support, retirement of the baby boomers, and addictions and mental health issues.


McKinsey & Company. (2021, December 14). America 2022 in charts: An economic opportunity snapshot. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/sustainable-inclusive-growth/America-2022-in-charts-An-economic-opportunity-snapshot

Pandemic a factor in increased substance use among construction industry workers – constructconnect.com. Daily Commercial News. (2021, September 7). Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://canada.constructconnect.com/dcn/news/ohs/2021/09/pandemic-a-factor-in-increased-substance-use-among-construction-industry-workers

Powering up: Preparing Canada’s skilled trades for a post-pandemic economy. RBC Thought Leadership. (2021, October 29). Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://thoughtleadership.rbc.com/powering-up-preparing-canadas-skilled-trades-for-a-post-pandemic-economy/

Squeeze play: Higher wages alone won’t solve Canada’s labour shortage problem. RBC Thought Leadership. (2021, November 9). Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://thoughtleadership.rbc.com/squeeze-play-higher-wages-alone-wont-solve-canadas-labour-shortage-problem/


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Scott Menzies

Scott menzies

Owner, The Coating Inspector