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Difficulty of Recruiting in Construction Described as “Labor Pains”

The folks over at the website “BuiltWorlds” point out that well before the Great Recession began – causing various shifts across the construction industry – there was already a lack of craft professionals with various skills.

Among others, the authors spoke to Brian Turmail, senior executive director at the Associated General Contractors of America:

For years, the nation had been undergoing a cultural shift, he explains, where society had come to discourage children from blue-collar careers. "More and more parents, high schools, even the government, began placing increasing emphasis on high school students to pursue college educations rather than vocational and technical educations in fields like construction,” says Turmail.

Over a period of decades, public vo-tech programs were dismantled as the federal government and other entities shifted funding to college prep programs. As a result, the labor pipeline that ultimately burst in 2009 already was rusting, which helped to stretch the existing labor gap to dire proportions nationally.

“Older skilled craftsmen retired, and many experienced mid-career craftsmen left the industry, (so) now we're facing a serious lack of young, trained craftsmen to perform the work and perform it safely,” adds Mike Glavin, director of workforce development policy and programs at nonunion Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC).

The article goes on to explain that despite the challenges, various companies and trade associations are coming up with innovative ways to address these "labor pains" and attract people into rewarding careers in construction. It is also noted that some aspiring white-collar workers are ironically making their way back toward construction for various reasons:

For instance, crushing student loans have caused more than a few NYC-based millennials to reverse course and take blue-collar jobs, with state apprenticeship programs sometimes picking up the tab, noted Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, in a recent interview with The New York Post. All good news, should that trend blossom as a widespread phenomenon. In the meantime, though, current numbers across the U.S. speak for themselves.

The U.S. construction workforce currently numbers 6.9 million, having added 2 million since the recession. Still, that's 1.1 million short of its pre-recession high, according to AGC. In many areas, aging workers are departing jobsites faster than they can be replaced.

The full article, which is well worth your time, can be found here