A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Residential Construction Seeks a Million Workers

Amid high unemployment in areas like the Midwest where people have in almost no way been encouraged to retrain themselves and while there are calls for increases in the minimum wage for jobs in fast food, the construction industry is offering good paying jobs but hurting for workers in a big way.

There are a variety of reasons for this, naturally. The problem is especially bad in North Texas, reports the Dallas Morning News:

Dallas-Fort Worth leads the country in construction of both houses and apartments. The lack of skilled labor is adding months to construction timelines and helping to inflate property prices in Big D and beyond.

"The labor market is a limiting factor in home construction growth," said Robert Dietz, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders. "The rate of unfilled jobs in the construction sector now is actually higher than it was in the building boom.

"We've got to recruit the next generation of construction workers," Dietz said at the industry's annual meeting this week in Florida.

The Morning News story also highlights the fact that homebuilders have just begun to try to invest in a future workforce:

Called the Skilled Labor Fund, the group has an initial nationwide fundraising goal of $5 million, said Tony Mancini, director of SGC Horizon Building Group and one of the organizers of the effort.

"Labor shortages are really what's identified as the most critical headwind in our marketplace today," Mancini said. "Building product manufacturers are having a major problem, too."

Mancini said that 20 percent of current residential building workers plan to retire in the next decade. That could take away another 900,000 jobs.

"That's what's so scary," he said. "It's slowing down housing and remodeling and making homes more expensive."

Contractor Magazine has more details on this Skilled Labor Fund:

The fund was created to address the increasing lack of high-quality, skilled labor entering the residential construction employment pool. With as many as 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S., an increase of 81% in the last two years, the problem is confronting stakeholders across the industry and across the country. The fund seeks to raise funds through industry partners, including builders and remodelers, dealers and associations, market-affiliated companies, select government agencies, and building product manufacturers.

...Supported by NAHB, NKBA, NARI, and SGC Horizon, the fund’s operating committee consists of senior management from each of the above organizations, which will recommend recipients of scholarship awards. Awarded funds will be disbursed as scholarships to accredited schools within the community where the dollars are raised, assuring donors that their investment will benefit their local market.

As for commercial construction, the Construction Career Collaborative in Houston is making headway in signing up more and more contractors for its effort. The nonprofit also known as C3 is “really a pretty simple organization,” said executive director Chuck Gremillion. “We want to attract young people to a career.”

While the vast majority of construction companies understand the need for safety training, which is a great thing, Gremillion recently told contractors at an ABC breakfast it is regrettable there aren’t more firms with a focus on craft training. “For many of our trades, craft training does not exist,” he said, adding that “a vision for the future of the industry begins with craft training.”

“A skilled craftsperson delivers more work in less time with less rework,” Gremillion said, arguing that the increased value of the person’s work will boost demand for their services. “We believe that will inflate wages naturally, as it should,” he said. “As craft wages grow, we will attract young people to the industry.”

“We’re all about the free market,” Gremillion said.