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“Labor shortage my …”
“I have to respectfully disagree with the statements and premise …”
These were some of the comments in response to my October blog regarding the need to find our industry “replacement workers” in light of the construction industry’s shedding of more than 2 million jobs since 2007. Since the Department of Labor projects that our industry will need to add 1.8 million jobs by 2020, the question remains: do we have a shortage or do we have an overabundance of folks eager for a return to these industry jobs? Based on comments from my October blog, there is quite the debate here!
Having recently attended both the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Training and HR Professionals conferences in October, let me tell you the overall consensus among the attendees was that there is a labor shortage in some geographic and talent areas at present, with an even bigger shortage looming just ahead as we emerge from our present economic downturn.
So let us focus first on the folks that have left our industry and look mainly on those involved at the field level. During the downturn and dating back to 2007, many of the workers shed from our industry either left the field all-together, retired, moved to other locales or have let their much-needed construction skills lapse. Many have left to prosper in other areas such as gas/oil, Marcellus Shale and trucking, while others have remained stagnant in low-paying, not-so-glamorous jobs.
The economic downturn has also had a great impact on the decline and cancellation of many training and outreach programs geared towards getting folks into the construction industry. Having spoken directly with many folks from AGC and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chapters, I heard many sad stories regarding the cancellation of apprentice and other related training programs due to budgetary constraints. Many groups have done away with construction career events and ACE Mentor programs for similar reasons. Partnerships between construction associations and high schools/colleges have shrunk, and most of the schools I visit have seen a steady drop in both construction-related students, as well as those seeking civil engineering as a profession.
Where are our new folks coming from to replace those that have left or retired from our industry? How can we rejuvenate these declining industry outreach and training programs to excite more individuals to enter our world? Those that wish to come back to our industry after many years, how will they get the needed training to get current skills?
I am not a numbers person, but the fact is, yes, we live in a world where margins are shrinking and manpower needs to be maximized at the lowest possible cost. Numbers however do not lie, and if you are not experiencing a labor shortage at present, more than likely you will in the near future as the figures in our industry don’t add up in a good way.
Grassroots efforts to beef up our training, mentoring and apprentice programs must begin now. We need to start with the middle school children and either get them excited about the trades or civil engineering so we can grab them into our great industry one way or the other. Nontraditional groups must be shown what great career options exist in our industry, and we must act now to make sure that the widening gap between construction labor demand and supply does not reach negative proportions. As always, I welcome your thoughts.
On a lighter note-my wishes to all of our readers for a great holiday season and a prosperous 2013!