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Survey: U.S. Contractors Struggle to Find Craft Workers

Eighty percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent most of the construction workforce, according to an industry survey released by engineering software company Autodesk (San Rafael, California, USA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) (Arlington, Virginia, USA).

These craft positions include contractors that apply corrosion-resistant technologies, such as protective coatings.

“Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread,” says Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages.”

Found in all U.S. regions, the labor shortages come as demand for construction continues to grow. The survey noted that construction employment expanded between July 2017 and July 2018 in 281 out of 358 metro areas tracked. Growing demand for construction workers helps explain why 81% of firms believe it will continue to be hard, or get harder, to find hourly craft workers, according to survey officials.

“With a rise in the share of firms having trouble finding skilled craft workers, it's evident that we need to reskill the future workforce,” says Sarah Hodges, senior director of Autodesk’s construction business. “Technology can help bridge this gap, and more firms are bringing training in-house to implement digital strategies such as building information modeling [BIM] to ease staffing challenges and train the next generation of industry professionals.”

Tight labor market conditions are also prompting firms to change the way they operate, recruit, and compensate workers, with 62% of construction firms reporting higher base pay rates for craft workers because of the difficulty in filling positions. Meanwhile, 24% have improved employee benefits for craft workers, and 25% report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.

In addition, 25% say they are increasing their use of labor-saving equipment, while an equal percent report using virtual construction methods such as BIM. However, 47% of firms report they have put higher prices on their bids, and 44% say current projects are costing more because of labor shortages.

About 46% report it takes longer than originally scheduled to complete projects, and 27% report they are putting longer completion times into their bids because of workforce shortages.

The association also released a workforce development plan that identifies steps federal officials should take to support construction workforce development, including doubling the funding for career and technical education over five years and allowing more people with construction skills to legally enter the country.

The plan also outlines new recruiting steps the association is taking, including launching a targeted digital advertising recruiting campaign and investing in innovative workforce solutions.

Source: AGC, www.agc.org.