An overwhelming majority of construction firms report trouble finding qualified craft workers to fill key spots as demand for construction continues to rebound in many parts of the country, according to the results of an industry-wide survey released by AGC of America. Association officials called for new career and technical-school programs, as well as other workforce measures to offset labor shortages that are forcing firms to change how they operate and which threaten workplace safety.
Of the 1,358 survey respondents, 86 percent said they are having difficulty filling hourly craft or salaried professional positions. Seventy-nine percent of responding firms nationwide are having a hard time filling one or more of the 21 hourly craft professional positions, particularly carpenters (73 percent of firms that employ carpenters report difficulty), sheetmetal installers (65 percent) and concrete workers (63 percent). In addition, 52 percent of firms are having a hard time filling salaried professional positions, especially project managers/supervisors (listed by 55 percent of firms that employ them), estimators (43 percent) and engineers (34 percent), noted AGC’s chief economist, Ken Simonson.
Washington State respondents mirrored national results, with 76 percent reporting trouble filling hourly positions, and 50 percent having trouble filling salaried positions.
As labor shortages grow more severe, competition for workers is heating up, Simonson added. He noted that 36 percent of firms report losing hourly craft professionals to other local construction firms, and 21 percent to other industries locally. Thirteen percent of responding firms report losing workers to construction firms in other locations.
Growing competition for workers is prompting 56 percent of firms to increase base pay rates for hourly craft professionals. Moreover, 43 percent of firms have increased their reliance on subcontractors because of tight labor conditions. And worker shortages also appear to be impacting safety, with 15 percent of firms reporting an increase in injuries and illnesses because of worker shortages, Simonson added.
The association has updated its Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan to address the growing worker shortages, Sandherr noted. The plan outlines steps, such as increasing funding for vocational education and making it easier to establish construction-focused schools, to reinvigorate the pipeline for new construction workers. The plan also calls for comprehensive immigration reform and measures to make it easier to hire veterans.
The survey was conducted in July and August. Click here to see the national survey results, analysis of the data and regional and state-by-state results.