According to the latest BLS numbers, while expanding above the 7 million level, the construction industry has not fully recovered our workforce after the recession. The economy and our industry are now in expansion mode and a number of companies with skilled trades are scrambling for qualified workers in order to be able to meet the demands and schedules on their existing projects, not to mention the ones in the bid pipeline.
A recent ENR editorial Today’s Immigrants, Tomorrow’s Managers asks a good question, and that is, “How many of today’s $17-an-hour laborers are tomorrow’s $90,000-a-year managers?”
When you stop to consider that we are currently short on skilled labor and that the “managers” are reaching retirement age, it is no wonder that the question is rising to the top of the conversation.
If you layer on the prediction that the amount of “built space” will double by 2030, then the issue gets a little hotter. To say that there is a mounting crisis ahead will likely fall on deaf ears of companies running at full speed just to keep up with today’s demands.
Many in our industry have been focused on the field crews and superintendents but let’s not lose sight of the crying need for the skilled craft workers, those immigrants who will rise to the management level and who will be responsible for hiring your workforce in the next 10 years. The issue of today is critical for some.
If, as the editorial states, “Legal and illegal immigrants account for almost a fourth of all construction workers,” then anything that impacts immigration will impact our industry “bigly,” as the president has said many times. As you consider your company and its sustainability, you should look to see who in the immigrant workforce today can be groomed and trained to be the managers of your team in the future.