As we near the end of the summer, it’s clear the year’s earlier economic growth has persisted, with the USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI) 2018 Q2 report stating that nearly all contractors polled are confident in the growth of the market. However, in the face of growing building demands, the industry’s labor shortage has become an obstacle for many of them. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the first quarter of 2018 saw an average of nearly 225,000 construction jobs unfilled each month — a number that’s been difficult to lower.
It’s also a number that’s slowed down project completion.
So what happened?
Though it started with the recession, when millions of construction workers left the trade, the industry’s continued to struggle to pull in a younger workforce. The removal of vocational programs like shop in schools as well as the push for students to attend college has made recruiting difficult. Many contractors have been left with the choice of either hiring unskilled or inexperienced labor to try and fill positions or to try and make do with the experienced, skilled laborers they already have available to them, which can sometimes mean forgoing on-site training for the next generation of workers.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Many schools have begun partnering with trade associations to begin bringing back vocational training programs. Like the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs, which set up Careers in Construction to instruct students in carpentry, plumbing, HVAC and electrical trades.
Contractors are also turning to new technologies to close the gap. The adoption of virtual and augmented reality, AI, drones and more has allowed many construction businesses to increase the efficiency of their workers without having to hire new labor.
Though it will take time to restore the workforce to its previous strength, the path is being created, and the first steps have already been taken. The industry continues to move forward, to adapt and to bounce back the way we always have.