Published August 31, 2016 in www.constructiondive.com
By Emily Peiffer
It’s time to stop telling children that their only path to success is a four-year college degree.
"Despite the 10% decline in firms having difficulty finding craft workers between 2015 and 2016, the 69% figure still represents a majority of the industry, and the AGC once again called on states and the federal government to promote technical training at the middle and high school levels."
A nationwide survey of 1,459 contractors — conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America during July and August — found that 69% are having difficulty finding workers to fill hourly craft positions.
Despite the fact that the 69% figure is 10% lower than last year's numbers, 75% of construction firms in this year's survey said they believe it will be difficult to find hourly craft workers over the next year.
Aside from the high percentage of firms reporting difficulty finding hourly craft workers, 38% reported difficulty hiring salaried field positions, 33% reported difficulty hiring salaried office positions, and 15% reported difficulty hiring hourly office positions.
As a result of the ongoing labor shortage, 48% of surveyed companies said they have increased pay for hourly craft workers, 48% have ramped up in-house training, and 47% have added more overtime hours. One of the most concerning results of the study found that as a result of hiring challenges, 12% of firms reported a higher number of reportable injuries and illnesses, 10% reported an increased number of job site hazards, and 9% reported a greater number of workers' compensation claims.
During a conference call, AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said that some construction firms have resorted to lowering their standards when bringing on new employees, and therefore are more concerned about safety of their workers. To remedy this skills gap, many companies said they have increased training efforts for employees.
In addition to the industry-specific ramifications, the AGC added that the ongoing labor shortage can have a ripple effect on the rest of the U.S. economy. "These shortages have the potential to undermine broader economic growth by forcing contractors to slow scheduled work or choose not to bid on projects, thereby inflating the cost of construction," Sandherr said.
Despite the 10% decline in firms having difficulty finding craft workers between 2015 and 2016, the 69% figure still represents a majority of the industry, and the AGC once again called on states and the federal government to promote technical training at the middle and high school levels. "It’s time to stop signaling to children that their only path to success lies in a four-year college degree," Sandherr said.
Brian Turmail, AGC senior executive director of public affairs, said he believes the decline this year in the percentage of firms reporting difficulty finding craft workers was due largely to increased pay rates as well as the fact that "word is getting out" about the abundance of well-paying job openings in the industry. Industry groups have consistently warned that the construction industry needs to develop a plan to build up the worker pipeline, with some suggesting marketing efforts, a greater focus on technical training in school, immigration reform and a broad coalition effort.