Skilled worker shortage looms for construction firms

After a year of persistent gains, construction confidence is leveling out.  It might be safe to say the recession is now a thing of the past.  But in some markets, contractors have an additional obstacle to worry about:  a lack of skilled labor.

A shortage of skilled workers is looming in the sector, which lost 2.3 million jobs during the 2007-2009 recession and has only recouped lass than half a million jobs, catching employers off guard and causing fear among many.  According to an Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) survey, 86% of construction companies plan to start hiring, however, 62 percent of firms are already complaining they cannot fill key professional and craft worker positions.  AGC represent 30,000 construction firms throughout the nation.  In particular, the key professional and craft worker positions such as equipment operators, laborers and project managers are the hardest to find.

It can be said that the worker shortage is that many contractors have a poor opinion of the local pipeline for preparing new workers and during the recession, construction workers who lost their employment found jobs in the Midwest, greatly in the oil fields of North Dakota; while others moved to healthcare and others were lost to early retirement.

The competition is definitely heating up for contractors as 52 percent of construction firms are losing workers to other construction companies.  As a result, companies are raising wages and improving benefits to retain workers.

Not only does the shortage of skilled workers effect the construction industry, but has become an issue for manufacturing; which was also hit hard by the recession.  Much of the problem is blamed on retiring baby boomers and the fact that construction and manufacturing remain unattractive career paths for high school graduates so training programs have shrunk or evaporated altogether.

For now, strong growth is expected in construction this year, driven largely by the private sector. Public sector spending on construction is expected to stabilize in Washington, as well as state and local government cases.  Contractors will continue to do their best at hiring the skilled labor and will spend more dollars in the future paying more for unskilled labor and spending the money to train themselves.

Sources:  Forbes and Reuters

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