ABC Survey: Contractors Invest $1.6 Billion Annually in Workforce Development

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) 2019 Workforce Development Survey, ABC member contractors invest approximately $1.6 billion annually in workforce development. Trade and specialty contractors, including contract glaziers, account for $1.3 billion (83%) of those investments.

The survey estimates that ABC member contractors invest an average of $117,679 on workforce development and education annually. In 2018, ABC member contractors provided safety education to nearly 600,000 workers.

Training Investment by Training Type

Safety 48%
Craft/trade 42%
Leadership 9%

Source: FMI

Personnel Trained by Role

Craft/trade 68%
Field manager/superintendent 17%
Project manager 10%
Senior leader 5%

“Since 2013, contractors have shifted the focus of their workforce development program to include more senior leaders, project managers and field managers/superintendents,” reads the survey.

The average investment in workforce development increased by $100 per person from 2013 to 2018 and the use of online education doubled from 10% to 20% in that same period.

The main obstacle to workforce development is a busy schedule, followed by a lack of interest from personnel, the high cost of training and uncertainty about the quality of various training methods.

The majority of contractors (92%) reported that a skilled labor shortage exists, which is up 11% from 2013. A quarter described the skilled labor shortage as being “very severe.”

ABC contractor members reported that the exodus of baby boomers is the biggest factor increasing the severity of the skilled labor shortage. Other factors include:

  • The perception of the industry as technologically unsophisticated;
  • Difficulty finding candidates who can pass a drug test;
  • Higher compensation in other industries;
  • Immigration, licensure and background check requirements;
  • Working conditions;
  • Perception of the industry as unsafe;
  • Higher compensation in other areas of the U.S.;
  • Full employment and headhunting; and
  • Cyclical industry.

Nearly half (48%) of respondents have an ABC chapter-affiliated apprenticeship program and 11% have an independent program. However, 41% have no apprenticeship program at all. The average number of apprentices or trainees involved in these programs is 22.


Industry consulting firm FMI conducted the survey. It was open from January 8, 2019 to February 19, 2019. The sample response rate was 7% of all ABC contractor members.

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