Exceptional Quality, Local Craftsmanship


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Where Have the Skilled Craftsmen Gone?

Summer is just a few months away, and that typically means a busy season for construction in the USA, especially here in the East. However, there is a systematic problem brewing that could change that cycle for construction companies across the country. Job openings in the construction industry have risen since the housing crash of the early 2000’s.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction sector is expected to grow by 13% in the next five years which could create 180,000 new jobs.

Sounds great, right? If the supply of workers could keep up with the demand of the business, yes, it would be one of the strongest business sectors in the country. However, that’s not what the construction sector is currently experiencing.  The labor market is shrinking and the demand is growing.  That’s important because estimates suggest that by 2020, 70% of jobs will be in the trades, while 30% will require a college degree.

Vocational and technical educations have been on a decline for a number of years with students more focused on college programs.  Compounding the issue, funding for educational programs has not risen to keep pace with inflation.  During the recent recession, laid-off workers began exploring different career paths.  Baby boomers (which made up a significant part of the skilled construction workforce) are retiring faster than young workers can replace them.  This shortage of skilled labor in the construction trades is creating a significant impact on consumers in the form of longer construction times and increased costs to build.

So what can be done to improve the existing shortage? Our thoughts on education need to change.  Emphasis needs to be re-focused on vocational and technical programs.  Employers who are eager to find students with the basic skills needed to enter the workforce, must continue to develop relationships with schools and programs that recruit students into the trades.  Let’s bring shop teachers and mechanical drafting teachers back into the high schools to engage students.  Guidance counselors should make both parents and students aware of the potential career path for all workers in the trades.  Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and welders can earn up to $75,000 a year, often with significantly less debt than college and advanced degree programs.  Unions can ensure apprenticeship programs are back up and running at full capacity.  Career counseling in high school can become more tuned into the needs of the construction industry and find students who want to work with their hands.

The solutions will take time.  Meanwhile, construction businesses all over will feel the impact of higher demand than what they can keep up with. This means you might just have to wait a bit longer to get a quality contractor for your next project.