Construction employers struggle to find qualified workers

(WTNH)– Despite paying more than an average farm job, potential construction workers get no educational training.

The Associated General Contractors of America released data detailing construction employment gains in metro areas from May 2016 – May 2017.

The report showed an increase in construction employment in 243 out of the 358 areas, a decline in 59, and no change in 54. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. added the most construction jobs during the past year, increasing their workforce by 16,500 jobs. They were followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.(9,100 jobs), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga.(7,900 jobs), Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (7,500 jobs), and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Flendale, Calif (7,000 Jobs). Lake Charles, La. metro area had the largest percentage gains in the past year, increasing their workforce by 24%.

Although many metro areas found an increase in employment, several firms report a difficult time finding qualified people to join the construction workforce.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas saw 5,300 job losses this past year, followed by Middlesex-Monmouth-Ocean, N.J. (-3,400 jobs), Pittsburgh, Pa. (-2,900 jobs), and Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis. (-2,400 jobs). Danville, Ill. suffered from the largest percentage decrease, with a loss of 17% of their workforce.

Officials note that the difficulty to find qualified workers is tied to a lack of career and technical education programs, especially at the secondary level.

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said that “as a result of tight labor market conditions, many firms are opting to invest more in training, find ways to become more efficient or use new techniques like off-site prefabrication or robotics to reduce labor needs.”

See Related: High school students get inside look at careers in construction

The renewal of the federal Perkins Act, which funds these education programs, would give officials the ability and funding to create construction-focused programs. The new legislation to renew the Act was passed in the House last week.

Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the association, shared that “too many high school students are never given an opportunity to consider careers in construction, despite the fact those jobs pay more than the average non-farm job.”

Association officials are urging senators to approve the legislation to renew the Perkins Act.

 

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