America desperately needs a million more construction workers
âThe phone rings all the time,â Messer said. âI’m growing as quickly as possible, but at the moment it depends on how many qualified technicians I can recruit. “
“We are losing more people than we are bringing into the industry,” said Matthew Schimenti, owner of Schimenti Construction Company. “People have made decisions in their lives to leave the region and the industry [during the pandemic]. It was like putting a puzzle together to restart where we literally called a time out. “
Schimenti Construction – which works primarily on commercial projects – has 20 open positions at all skill levels. They even hired two internal recruiters just to look for talent. Commercial construction has remained largely stable during the pandemic, but is expected to pick up as the U.S. economy returns to pre-pandemic norms.
âIf we wanted it to be just a bad dream and it to go away and everyone to come back, that won’t happen,â Schimenti said.
Compensation is not the problem
âI was offering $ 18 to $ 22 an hour and got no requests. I raised it to $ 23 and received none. I raised it to $ 25 and they start to happen now, âMesser said. “It was a dramatic increase, but to grow the business I need technicians.”
But unlike other industries facing labor shortages, such as restaurants and hotels, construction pays nearly double the average hourly rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an employee of a restaurant or hotel can earn $ 18.23 an hour on average, compared to $ 32.86 an hour for a construction worker.
âYou can make a good living while you learn. If you have the desire to learn multiple trades, we will teach you multiple trades, âsaid Michael Bellman, President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors. âOur members invested $ 1.3 billion last year to develop their existing workforce.
Lack of in-store classes and an aging population
Shopping classes – once part of the curriculum of schools across the country – are now scarce. These courses had often been a student’s first introduction to a power tool or tape measure, and an important introduction to construction work. The lack of in-store courses has made it more difficult for the industry to attract and recruit young talent, according to Bellman. That, added to an aging construction workforce – the average age is 43 – has created a job gap.
âWe want to go into all the areas where we can attract the best talent. Once we bring them into the industry, we educate and improve our skills,â Bellman said.
Teaching new skills at no additional cost to workers is retention-oriented. Over the past decade, the average monthly turnover rate in construction has been 5.2%, compared with 3.6% for all industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And until the workforce keeps up with demand, companies will increasingly turn to technology to replace vacant positions.
âThe industry is using technology and innovation to basically manage this disruption when it comes to the labor shortage. Lots of use of drones, robotics and additive manufacturing,â Bellman said. “However, it creates new career opportunities in these spaces of innovation and technology. And it’s very appealing to the younger generation.”
– Kate Trafecante contributed to this report