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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
APR 16, 2018
Skilled Construction Workers Wanted!
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, Inc., an industry-wide survey revealed that 70-percent of construction firms are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions, which represent the bulk of the construction workforce. Even though the pool of skilled workers is shrinking, 75-percent of construction firms say they still plan to increase their headcount this year. The shortage of workers is their biggest business concern, outweighing rising material costs, competition, and regulations.
A Perfect Storm: Hurricanes Heighten Problematic Plight
The lack of skilled workers is especially troubling for areas hit hard by catastrophic weather disasters. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season broke several records, including the first time three Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. and its territories in one year. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused more than $300 billion in damages—with Texas sustaining the most damage, $160 billion from Harvey. Post-hurricane reconstruction efforts in Florida and Texas have been stalled because there simply aren’t enough qualified people to do the work.
Texas was already dealing with a shortage of workers before the hurricane season hit. Because of recovering oil prices and increased investments made in energy companies, there are higher-paying jobs for contractors in the oil and gas industries. Additionally, Texas has seen their construction workforce decrease because immigration policies have driven immigrant construction workers out of the state. One example is the Salvadorans who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is set to expire. In Texas, there are currently 36,300 Salvadoran TPS holders, and more than 20-percent of them work in construction.
A Matter of Time: Many Contributing Factors Alter Industry
The overall shortage of construction workers can be attributed to many factors beyond natural disasters, improved economy, and immigration. Two million workers lost their jobs when construction work slowed during the Great Recession. Some retired, some have since been rehired, and some left the industry all together.
At a typical job site there are many aging workers, 40-percent are 45-years-old or older, and just 10-percent of construction workers are younger than 25-years-old. Across the workforce, many industries are feeling the loss of Baby Boomers. In the United States, every single day through 2030, 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach retirement age. That is potentially 10,000 workers retiring every day! In construction, there are 1.5 million workers who will turn 68-years-old by 2030.
Add this to the fact that for many years, families have strongly encouraged their children to pursue higher education. Achieving a college degree has become a big part of the American dream, but that has also contributed to the shortage of skilled trades workers. The majority of the American labor market is made up of middle-skills jobs, which require some education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in the United States, there are 30 million jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and pay an average of $55,000 per year.
A Paradigm Shift: Changing the Perception of Skilled Trades
There is a big push nationwide to increase the awareness of the opportunities that exist in skilled trades. Initiatives to help remedy the critical skills gap are coming from both private businesses and government.
Last summer, the House passed the
Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21
, a bipartisan bill that reauthorizes and updates the Perkins Act. It would streamline federal funding for workforce development plans and technical education plans, and empower states to improve alignment with in-demand jobs. But, the bill has yet to be taken up by the Senate.
Michigan is facing a shortage of workers in the professional trades with an expected growth of 15,000 new jobs annually through 2024. The state’s Going PRO campaign targets students, parents, and school counselors, with the intention of changing their perception of Career Technical Education, and showcasing careers in advanced manufacturing, construction, energy, healthcare, and information technology. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also recently unveiled his Marshall Plan for Talent, which is designed to transform the education system and connect to private businesses, turning schools into hubs for education, training, and career exploration.
Lowes recently announced a four-city pilot for their Track to the Trades program, a pre-apprenticeship program for their employees. It includes tuition funding for trade skill certification, academic coaching and placement opportunities. By the end of the year, they’ll expand the program nationwide for all of their part-time and full-time employees. Last year, The Home Depot Foundation launched a trades training program for separating military members, which incudes a no-cost apprenticeship certification program. They just recently announced they’ve committed $50 million to train 20,000 new tradespeople over the next 10 years.
The construction industry is also taking matters into its own hands and has implemented a new nationwide recruiting program. Go Build America promotes the skilled trades and provides critical recruitment resources, reaching students and seasoned workers. Laborers can even post their resumes and search for applicable job openings.
Strengthening America’s workforce is critical to solving the demand for construction workers, a demand that won’t ease up anytime soon. Construction jobs are expected to grow 13-percent in both private and public sectors through 2026.