Building the Skilled Labor Bench
The Associated General Contractors of America released a workforce survey last month which found 93% of construction companies have positions available to fill, and 91% of those firms are having trouble filling at least some of them – especially among the craft workforce. The survey found the most common rationale for problems filling positions, as noted by nearly 8 in 10 firms, is that available individuals lack the skills required to work in construction.
Last year alone, over 350,000 jobs were left unfilled in the construction trades due to the skilled workforce shortage, and 6 in 10 construction firms had to delay projects due to these manpower shortages.
While this problem has been noted as a concern for some time now, many industry analysts say we can’t afford to wait any longer to resolve the problem.
The good news: national employment figures for July 2022 pointed to a slightly lower unemployment rate in construction than that of other sectors. Construction unemployment was at 3.5% this summer, which means virtually no one with prior construction experience is actively seeking employment in the industry. But the bad news: the median age of a construction worker today is 41 years old, and, according to the National Center for Construction Education and Research, more than 40% of the U.S. construction workforce is expected to retire in the next decade. This shifts the emphasis to the lack of young (and diverse) professionals entering the industry.
So, we have our work cut out for us in building up our skilled trade bench in the U.S., and it’s going to take a collective effort among the private and public sectors to get us back on track. Here are five ways we’re seeing action:
Private sector investment in wages, perks and labor standards: AGC reported in the past year, 86% of businesses increased the basic pay rates for their employees, while 70% passed on higher material costs to project owners. Further, 45% of firms are now offering incentives and bonuses, and 24% have upgraded their benefits packages.
Public investment in new workforce-development programs: The Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, passed earlier this year, includes $800 million in dedicated funding for job training. The White House also launched the Talent Pipeline Challenge this summer, a program to help employers build education and training partnerships to connect American workers to good jobs in infrastructure, supply chains and manufacturing.
Public relations: School leaders have stopped solely pushing a ‘college for all’ mantra and instead have educated students on alternatives. We need to continue to educate our youngest generation about the benefits, financial and otherwise, of working in the construction industry. And we’re making improvements in this area: the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported nationwide enrollment at two-year institutions in construction trades increased this spring by nearly 20%, while at the same time, four-year college enrollment dropped by nearly 5%.
Training, education and technology adoption: We’ve written about the importance of STEM education starting at an early age, as nearly 90% of construction firms agree that technology is a key factor in how well they are able to deal with labor shortages. In addition to ensuring proper education for students, many firms are adopting virtual and augmented reality to simulate on-the-job training to open pathways to more careers in skilled labor.
Project outsourcing: Firms of all sizes are relying on companies like AstraWorks to provide the best staffing solutions and supplement in-house recruiting to meet current requirements without the financial commitment of permanent jobs. Our candidate talent pool ranges from administrative support to project management, engineering, design and real estate acquisition.
The need continues for us to develop a younger, more diverse construction workforce, especially if the country is to satisfy not only rising construction demand but also the massive overhaul to our country’s infrastructure system through the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. Reach out today if we can help with your recruiting needs.