Construction industry economists agree that most sectors of the construction industry will continue to experience growth in 2016. The recent 2016 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America found that 71 percent of firms plan to increase their workforce in 2016. However, many industry experts believe that these companies will continue to find a shortage of both skilled and non-skilled workers available for employment.
There are several reasons for the present shortage of workers in the construction industry, all stemming from the recession lasting from 2006 through 2011. The large number of layoffs during the recession and the lack of new hiring during this period created a shortage of industry workers that will take several years to recover. This shortage is especially true in the age category from 25-34. Many of the workers in this age range lacked the seniority to survive layoffs during the recession and had to find employment in new industries. These workers have been hesitant to return to the construction industry, though work has picked up.
The number of Latino workers in the construction industry has also decreased. Some of these workers have returned to Mexico to take advantage of new construction and manufacturing jobs now available in the country. Plus, with more stringent immigration and hiring regulations like the eVerify system, the number of immigrants coming to America for jobs in the construction industry has dropped significantly.
Another factor facing the industry is a lack of interest by younger American workers to enter the construction industry for career opportunities. Younger workers are now more apt to seek employment in other industries like technology, which offers higher salaries and more stable opportunities.
Finally, all of the aforementioned challenges are magnified by an aging baby boomer generation of workers that are rapidly reaching retirement age and are aging out of the industry more quickly than new workers are available to come in.
So despite a great deal of optimism by construction firms about growing opportunities in the private and government sectors across the commercial building, residential, and transportation construction, firms are challenged to find the next generation of construction industry workforce to complete all of the projects now coming online. Firms are increasingly turning to offering higher salaries, better benefits, and greater training opportunities to lure workers to their company. Additionally, firms are looking to technology investments to increase worker productivity to be able to do more with less.
The AGC’s Construction Hiring and Business Outlook for 2016 concludes by offering an analysis on the industry’s challenge for the year:
"These challenges are real, but they are not insurmountable. Indeed, many of the measures the association outlined in its recently updated Workforce Development Plan are designed to re-invigorate the pipeline for recruiting and preparing new construction workers. The association has also helped coordinate industry-wide efforts to ensure that any final new regulatory measures are effective and minimally disruptive."
The Institute has been helping to increase opportunities for minorities and women in transportation construction by partnering with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s On-the-Job Training Program. The goal of the program is to recruit underrepresented candidates for apprenticeship positions with transportation contractors working on federally-funded contracts. For additional details, visit www.TheInstituteNC.org.