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News » US » Contractors struggle to fill craft jobs » published 31 Aug 2018

Contractors struggle to fill craft jobs

An industry-wide survey has found that 80% construction firms are having a hard time filling the hourly-paid craft positions that represent the bulk of the workforce.

The survey was carried out by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). AGC officials said that the shortages pose a significant risk to future economic growth and they released a new workforce development plan to solve the growing problem.

"Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread," said Ken Simonson, AGC's chief economist. "The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages."

Of the more than 2,500 survey respondents, 80% said they are having difficulty filling hourly craft positions, Simonson noted. Craft worker shortages are severe in all four regions of the country, with 81% of contractors in the West and South reporting a hard time filling hourly craft positions, almost identical to the 80% rate in the Midwest and 77% rate in the Northeast.

The labor shortages come as demand for construction continues to grow. Simonson said that a new analysis of federal data shows that construction employment expanded between July 2017 and July 2018 in 281 out of 358 metro areas that the association tracks.

"With a rise in the share of firms having trouble finding skilled craft workers, it's evident that we need to reskill the future workforce," said Sarah Hodges, senior director, construction business line at Autodesk. "Technology can help bridge this gap, and more firms are bringing training in-house to implement digital strategies such as building information modeling, or BIM, to ease staffing challenges and train the next generation of industry professionals."

Tight labor market conditions are prompting firms to change the way they operate, recruit and compensate workers, Simonson said. Sixty-two percent of construction firms report increasing base pay rates for craft workers because of the difficulty in filling positions. Twenty-four percent have improved employee benefits for craft workers and 25% report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.

In addition, 25% report they are increasing their use of labor-saving equipment and an equal percent report using virtual construction methods such as BIM. However, 47% of firms report they have put higher prices on their bids and 44% report that projects under way are costing more because of labor shortages. Forty-six percent report it takes longer than originally scheduled to complete projects and 27% report they are putting longer completion times into their bids because of workforce shortages.

The AGC also released a new Workforce Development Plan that identifies steps federal officials should take to support construction workforce development, including doubling the funding for career and technical education over five years and allowing more people with construction skills to legally enter the country. The plan also outlines new recruiting steps the association is taking, including launching a targeted digital advertising recruiting campaign and investing in innovative workforce solutions.

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This article was published on 31 Aug 2018 (last updated on 31 Aug 2018).

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