The construction industry has continued its ascent this year, with all major indicators showing there is plenty of work to be had and more on the way over the next year. Finding qualified workers to meet the demand, however, seems to be a whole different story.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) recently released results from its 2015 Worker Shortage Survey, and concern regarding a lack of qualified workers continues to loom over the industry.
Of the 1,358 respondents to the industry-wide survey, 89 percent report they expect to hire additional or replacement hourly craft professionals in the next 12 months, with 73 percent expecting to hire salaried professionals. However, 86 percent of firms reported they are having difficulty filling hourly craft or salaried professional positions.
It’s not sector-specific, either. More than half of the 47 glazing firms indicate they’re having trouble finding glaziers, and nearly half of the 220 iron worker firms are having trouble finding workers in their field. The survey was conducted in July and August. “Few firms across the country have been immune from growing labor shortages in the construction industry,” says Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s CEO. “The sad fact is too few students are being exposed to construction careers or provided with the basic skills needed to prepare for such a career path.”
AGC chief economist Ken Simonson says that as labor shortages grow more severe, competition for workers is heating up. He notes that 36 percent of firms report losing hourly craft professionals to other local construction firms, and 21 percent to other industries locally.
According to the survey, 13 percent of responding firms report losing workers to construction firms in other locations. Growing competition for workers is prompting 56 percent of firms to increase base pay rates for hourly craft professionals, the report reveals. Moreover, 43 percent of firms have increased their reliance on subcontractors because of tight labor conditions.
The worker shortage is affecting firms large and small, as well as both union and non-union. It’s also not limited to any part of the country, though the shortage is most severe in the Midwest, according to the survey. Eighty-five percent of contractors from that region report having a hard time filling craft positions. The Northeast had the lowest rate at 73 percent.
To help address the issue, the association has updated its “Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan.” The plan, which can be read in full here, outlines steps to revive the pipeline for new construction workers. Steps include increasing funding for vocational education and making it easier to establish construction-focused schools. It also touches on immigration reform and promotes the hiring of veterans.