Skills gap stalls construction industry growth, report says
- Eighty percent of firms in the construction industry report difficulty finding skilled workers for hourly craft positions, according to a report from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk. Talent shortages are resulting in delays and higher project costs as businesses struggle to reach or maintain full head count. Hourly positions make up the majority of the industry's workforce.
- Labor shortages are not only causing problems for businesses, they threaten to stall industry-wide growth as well, according to the report. The shortages come along with growth in the industry: more than 75% of the metropolitan areas tracked by the association are experiencing the problem. To cope, some firms have increased hourly rates and benefits. But the larger, more foundational problem of the skills gap still needs to be addressed, according to Sarah Hodges, senior director, construction business line at Autodesk. "Technology can help bridge [the skills gap], and more firms are bringing training in-house to implement digital strategies such as building information modeling, or BIM, to ease staffing challenges and train the next generation of industry professionals," she said in a press release.
- AGC has released a workforce development plan outlining steps federal officials can take to bolster construction workforce development. Those measures include increasing funding for career and technical education and allowing more workers with construction skills to enter the country legally. AGC is also launching a digital recruitment campaign.
The construction industry has been facing labor shortages caused by the skills gap for quite some time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that some employees have been logging 50-60 hour workweeks to make up for a dwindling workforce. In search of more sustainable, effective solutions, employers in construction and other worker-hungry industries have looked deep within and far outside of themselves.
Many employers have created apprenticeships to attract and train young employees. Lowe's, for example, launched its Track to the Trades program in February, which provides career alternatives and financial support to employees looking to take up a skilled trade. And the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has published a toolkit to assist employers in such an endeavor.
Schools, meanwhile, are fast-tracking some programs, getting workers out in the field with the promise of a degree later down the road.
All levels of government have pitched in, too. North Carolina, for example, recently announced up to $7 million in funding to help trade school and community college students who face unexpected financial hardships stay in school.