More than 80 percent of construction companies are having a hard time finding qualified workers, according to a survey of 1,386 companies by Associated General Contractors of America.
Carpenters, sheet metal installers and concrete workers are in especially short supply, but construction companies also are having difficulty filling salaried positions such as project managers, estimators and engineers.
These jobs pay well: The mean average wage for carpenters in the U.S. last year was $45,590; sheet metal installers made an average of $48,700, and cement masons and concrete finishers made made an average of $40,970. Construction managers made an average of $94,500. Average wages for these occupations are probably higher this year, because contractors report they’re paying more for construction workers because they’re in such short supply.
You can find comprehensive data on what people earn for various occupations, including localized numbers for 106 major markets across the U.S., at American City Business Journals’ “What People Earn” database.
Half of the construction company executives surveyed said their local pipeline for construction workers is below-average or poor.
“That’s a pretty severe indictment of the quality of the pipeline for our industry,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of AGC.
“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,” he said.
To address this issue, AGC recommends increased funding for career and technical education, the establishment of construction academy charter schools, antitrust exemptions so that non-union contractors can jointly fund craft training programs, and expanded partnerships between apprenticeship programs and community colleges.
In the meantime, construction companies are paying workers more in order to attract and keep them, and increasing their use of subcontractors and staffing companies, the survey found.
This is driving up the cost of construction projects, contractors report.
“Our project costs have gone up substantially,” said John Finch, CEO of PBG Builders Inc. in Goodlettsville, Tenn.
Subcontractors also are having trouble finding qualified workers, he said. One major subcontractor on one of his projects had to walk off the job because they couldn’t find enough workers, he said. PBG Builders had “to pay a huge premium” to find a replacement, he said.
PGB Builders is bidding on less work because of the worker shortage, he said, and “is taking a hard look at public projects” because of their lower profit margins. The company also is having to charge more for private-sector projects.
Overtime pay is up at Gallegos Corp. in Walcott, Colo., because it can’t find enough qualified workers, said David Little, the company’s chief development officer. Gallegos also established its own apprenticeship program because few young Americans have learned construction skills.
What about the 2 million construction workers who lost their jobs during the recession? Many got jobs in other sectors of the economy, according to AGC, others don’t have the skills that are most in demand, and some retired. In 2013, 40 percent of the construction work force was 45 years of age or older. That means 3.7 million construction workers will approach retirement in the next 10 years.
That means the U.S. needs to train more young Americans for construction jobs — or depend on immigrants to do the work.
Original Article: Sep 11, 2015, Kent Hoover Washington Bureau Chief