As many of you are aware, Construction Career Collaborative, also known as C3, was founded because several leaders in the commercial construction industry decided to step forward and address the huge problem that exists in our industry of an unsustainable workforce. In other words, more people are leaving the industry than joining it. In fact, the average age of a craft worker entering the industry is 29, and the average age of all craft workers is 47, with many expected to retire in the next several years.
One may ask, “How did we get into this mess?” The answer is not a simple one. In fact, it is quite complex. As one construction executive told me recently, “It has many tentacles.” So what are the causes of this complex problem?
- Misclassification of craft workers as subcontractors, thereby avoiding the payment of Social Security, federal, and state unemployment taxes in an effort to gain a competitive advantage by reducing cost illegally.
- A movement away from craft training and safety training.
- A focus in our schools of preparing all students for college and a movement away from vocational education that might interest and attract young people to the construction industry.
- A perception among young people that construction is dirty and unsafe.
- A flood of undocumented workers who work in the shadows with no recourse to address wage abuse, resulting in downward pressure on wages.
The result? What was formerly an excellent path to a middle-class living has lost much of its earning power, thereby not attracting young people to the construction industry and creating the unsustainable workforce that we have today.
In future blogs, I will address the necessary path forward.