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Survey Finds Craft Worker Shortage

Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Most U.S. construction companies are reporting difficulty in filling openings for key craft workers, including painters, a new survey finds.

Professional positions—project supervisors, estimators, engineers and others—are also proving difficult to staff, according to an industry-wide survey released Wednesday (Oct. 22) by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Key Findings

Eighty-three percent of responding firms are having a hard time filling craft worker positions, while 61 percent report trouble in filling professional positions, according to the survey.

Craft workers

The Associated General Contractors of America say that a growing number of locations and construction segments are having difficulty finding workers with needed skills.

Thirty-seven percent of companies reported a shortage of painters.

To address the shortages, many firms are changing the way they operate, including using more subcontractors (48 percent) and staffing companies (37 percent) to get work done.

In addition, 59 percent of firms report paying more to help retain construction craft workers and 56 percent have done so to retain construction professionals, according to the survey.

Results by Region

Worker shortages appear most severe in the Southeast, where 86 percent of contractors report having a hard time finding qualified workers.

Eighty-four percent of contractors in the Midwest, 82 percent in the West; and 67 percent in the Northeast reported difficulty finding workers, AGC said.

More than 1,000 firms responded to the 2014 Workforce Survey conducted in August and September.

Weak Outlook

Construction firms seemed particularly concerned with the quantity and quality of local construction education and training programs, AGC noted.

Nationwide, 55 percent of firms say the local pipeline for preparing new craft workers is “below average or poor.”

©iStock.com / kadmy

Thirty-seven percent of companies responding in the survey reported a shortage of painters.

Meanwhile, 35 percent of firms have a low opinion of the local pipeline for construction professionals.

“Considering how much the nation’s educational focus has moved away from teaching students career and technical skills during the past few decades, it is easy to understand why the construction industry is facing such severe labor shortages,” Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC, said in a statement.

More Training Needed

Therefore, association officials are calling for new career and technical school programs, as well as other measures, to offset the labor shortages.

The AGC has a created a workforce development plan in response to the growing problem.

Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan” identifies steps to reinvigorate the pipeline for new construction workers. Options include greater funding for vocational education and making it easier to establish construction-focused schools.

During a visit to the ACE Academy, a construction-focused public high school in Portland, OR, the economist commented, “Schools like this should be the norm, not the exception.”


Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors (AGC); Construction; Contractors; Craftsmanship; Painters; Worker training; Workers

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/24/2014, 9:28 AM)

Unemployment among construction workers is still among the highest in the USA. Recent reports on wage improvement in construction since the bottom of the recession barely match inflation. If you can't get enough qualified workers in construction, you aren't paying enough and/or offering good enough benefits/stability.

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