More than 3 in 4 contracting firms are finding it difficult to fill skilled trade positions, and more than 3 in 5 are finding project supers, estimators and engineers hard to find, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America conducted in August and September. The Southeast sees the largest challenge, where 86% of contractors face labor challenges; the Northeast is better off, but far from complacent as 67% of contractors there try to deal with the problem.
To deal with the issue, nearly 60% of the firms surveyed have tried raising wages to attract new workers in both the craft and professional positions. Almost half are resorting to an increased use of subcontractors while more than one-third are turning to staffing agencies.
Many of the respondents say that training and education programs in their areas are sub par and more than one-third don’t see much cause for celebration in their area’s workforce pipeline. And AGC is responding. It’s developed a plan, Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan for the 21st Century to reinvigorate the pipeline of workers in the AEC space.
Florida is one state feeling the pinch. Contractors there face a dearth of carpenters, drywall installers, electricians, equipment operators and painters. Clearly, it’s not alone.
In Louisiana, where Greenbuild 2014 is going on, there is more than $100 billion in industrial projects. Some have been recently completed, others are underway and some will break ground soon. Of those Louisiana firms surveyed, 100% say they can’t kind roofing professionals. About 40% are struggling to fill their skilled trade positions and more than half say that finding construction professionals is problematic.
Meanwhile, at Greenbuild there is no shortage of AEC folk in attendance. More than 23,000 people descended on the city to attend the convention’s opening at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans’ Warehouse Arts District on Wednesday morning.
It’s the country’s sixth largest convention center, located on the banks of the Mississippi River. Architecturally, there isn’t much to set it apart from many other convention centers I’ve been to –- with one exception. It’s a lengthy 0.62 mile walk from the northwest entrance to the opposite side where the Greenbuild hubbub continues to strengthen.
The building is extremely long, rather squat, fairly nondescript and located adjacent to the elevated Pontchatrain Expressway. The 3.1 million-square-foot structure has 140 meetings rooms and 1.1 million-square-feet of contiguous exhibit space. Education sessions in the morning appeared packed to the brim – full of those panting from the long walk to get there. There’s talk of adding a people-mover walkway to the convention center, redeveloping the traffic pattern and bringing in more development.
As the week progresses, and into the future, we’ll write more about the goings-on at Greenbuild and elaborate on AGC’s efforts to build the pipeline of skilled workers.