Skills shortage bites in the US

By Chris Sleight14 September 2015

A survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has found that 86% of contractors in the US are having difficulty finding skilled workers.

AGC chief executive Stephen Sandherr said, "Few firms across the country have been immune from growing labour shortages in the construction industry. The sad fact is too few students are being exposed to construction careers or provided with the basic skills needed to prepare for such a career path."

Some 1,358 US contractors took part in the survey. Of them, 86% said they were having difficulty filling hourly craft or salaried professional positions. Regarding site workers, trades with particular shortages included carpentry, sheet metal installers and concrete workers. Meanwhile, the greatest shortages in professional positions included project managers/supervisors, estimators and engineers.

AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said that competition for skilled workers was heating-up as labour shortages became more acute. He noted that 36% of contractors reported losing hourly craft professionals to local competitors, and 21% to other local industries. In addition, 13% of responding contractors reported losing workers to construction firms in other locations.

The survey found that 56% of contractors were increasing basic pay for trades people, and 43% had increased their reliance on subcontractors because of tight labour conditions.

In light of the findings, the AGC has updated its Preparing the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers: A Workforce Development Plan to address the growing worker shortage. The document outlines steps, such as increasing funding for vocational education and making it easier to establish construction-focused schools, to reinvigorate the pipeline for new construction workers. The plan also calls for comprehensive immigration reform and measures to make it easier to hire veterans.

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