All Articles Leadership Careers From too many to too few: Construction's skilled labor shortage

From too many to too few: Construction’s skilled labor shortage

3 min read


The Great Recession became official in December 2007, and by its end, more than 8.8 million jobs had been lost — 2 million in the construction sector alone.

But times change, and after the massive battering, the industry is starting to bounce back.  Construction spending is up, projects are more plentiful and optimism is starting to sneak its way in.  But now, there’s another problem — a shortage of workers, because so many left the industry to find employment elsewhere.

To see how widespread the shortage of skilled labor is, SmartBrief and the Associated General Contractors of America conducted a poll. The findings were interesting.

AGC of America / SmartBrief poll

Nearly two-thirds of those who participated say they have encountered a shortage of skilled labor in the last year — particularly in the South and Midwest, and more than two-thirds have had to increase wages to keep their skilled labor. More than 80% of respondents, almost half of whom were general contractors, said they would pay even higher wages to attract the workers they need.

Contractors report they have the most difficulty finding project managers, supervisors, carpenters and equipment operators, and the least trouble attracting joiners, inspectors, wallboard installers and masons, according to the survey.

However, only about one-third of those who participated in the poll say the shortage is so severe that they’ve needed to turn down work. And this gives the industry a bit of breathing room to find innovative ways to rebuild the workforce.

Workforce development

Almost two-thirds of the poll respondents say they are working with – or plan to work with – community colleges to create and enhance apprentice programs  in an attempt to draw young people into the field.

AGC of America has devised a workforce-development plan to help recruit a new generation of workers. The association’s plan includes a revamp of the Carl D. Perkins Career & Technical Education Act and improvement of the Workforce Investment Act; encouraging private investment in training in the crafts; and working with Congress to help make it easier for military veterans to participate in training programs.

Such a stark contrast to just a few years ago when the layoffs came mercilessly.

Interestingly, although many construction workers left the field for other opportunities or retired during the recession, those who remain — for the most part, according to the poll, intend to stay in the field and would encourage younger people to enter it. And many, have taken the lessons learned to heart as their businesses forge ahead.

The complete findings from the SmartBrief/AGC survey are available to subscribers of AGC SmartBrief. Download your copy.