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Survey IDs Hardest Industry Positions to Fill

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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An industry-wide survey has indicated that 70 percent of construction firms are having trouble finding qualified craft workers, another symptom of what industry groups say is an ongoing labor shortage.

The Study

The Associated General Contractors of America released the findings Tuesday (Aug. 29) of a study it conducts with Autodesk, which found that, of the more than 1,600 survey respondents, the craft worker shortage is most severe in the western part of the United States with 75 percent of contractors struggling to fill positions.

© / Avalon_Studio

An industry-wide survey has indicated that 70 percent of construction firms are having trouble finding qualified craft workers, another side effect of the labor shortage.

While the survey indicated that firms are adjusting variables such as hiring practices, wages and in-house training, officials have warned that the efforts might not be enough to overcome the labor shortfall.

“In the short term, fewer firms will be able to bid on construction projects if they are concerned they will not have enough workers to meet demand,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer for the Associated General Contractors.

“Over the long term, either construction firms will find a way to do more with fewer workers or public officials will take steps to encourage more people to pursue careers in construction.”

The survey found that in addition to craft positions, salaried positions are also becoming increasingly difficult to fill.

The top five craft workers that are the hardest find include:

  • Carpenters;
  • Bricklayers;
  • Electricians;
  • Concrete workers; and
  • Plumbers.

The top five salaried positions that are the hardest to fill include:

  • Project managers/supervisors;
  • Estimating personnel;
  • Engineers;
  • BIM personnel; and
  • Quality control personnel.

Causes & Solutions

The survey estimates that the causes for these hiring hardships are a combination of recent construction employment expansion (258 out of 358 metro areas grew over the past year) and a broken training pipeline, which have both been evident for some time.

© / m-gucci

The survey estimates that the causes for these hiring hardships are a combination of recent construction employment expansion (258 out of 358 metro areas grew over the past year) and a broken training pipeline.

“Tight labor market conditions are not new. This year’s results are strikingly similar to last year’s workforce shortage survey results,” according to the report. “The survey results indicate that the supply of qualified workers, the perceived quality of the recruiting pipeline and the steps firms are taking to cope with labor shortages are all very similar to last year.”

In addition to efforts to attract more workers in general, half of construction firms report increasing base pay rates for craft workers, 20 percent have improved employee benefits for craft workers and 24 percent report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.

Just over 45 percent of firms also report they are doing more in-house training to cope with workforce shortages while 47 percent report they are increasing overtime hours and 41 percent are increasing their use of subcontractors.

And in an attempt to offset human labor, 22 percent report they are increasing their use of labor-saving equipment, 11 percent are using offsite prefabrication and 7 percent are using virtual construction methods.

"The ongoing labor drought continues to put pressure on the already high-risk, low-margin construction industry," said Sarah Hodges, director of the construction business line at Autodesk.

"As labor challenges continue to grow, technology will play an increasingly important role supporting the existing workforce while inspiring the next generation of industry professionals."

Officials concluded the report by calling on local, state and federal officials to take action regarding the association’s Workforce Development Plan, which gives a detailed step-by-step of how to rebuild the industry and reverse the labor shortage.


Tagged categories: Good Technical Practice; Industry surveys; Labor; North America; Personnel

Comment from peter gibson, (8/31/2017, 11:05 AM)

How will technology support a craft worker ? Inspiring next generation....all feel good words that don't mean anything. Problem is there is no emphasis on trades for up-and-comers. They would rather stare at a phone 24/7 than wheiled a hammer.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (9/1/2017, 9:21 AM)

So, except for senior management and heavy equipment operators, every job in construction is hard to fill? That's not indicative of a labor shortage, it means there's a problem in the hiring process.

I'm going to shoot from the hip here, and say they are never going to find tradespeople if they're limiting themselves to craftspeople at A.C. Moore and Michael's.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (9/3/2017, 7:59 PM)

Peter is right though, there's a point at which technology becomes detrimental. Somewhat ironically, that's a fact most prevalent at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

Senior management doesn't need anything but a calculator in meetings and tradespeople only need their tools to do the best job possible. Everything else is a distraction.

I got a survey from a national brand tool company wanting to know my opinion on Bluetooth connectivity for an automated tube cutter. The two most important pieces of data it sent to the users phone/tablet was the time per cut and the battery life. There was a disclaimer at the bottom stating that constant use of the Bluetooth radio would significantly reduce the battery life of the tool and the users mobile device. Foolishness.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/5/2017, 8:11 AM)

Time for my usual refrain: If construction companies are having a hard time hiring craft workers, perhaps they should make the jobs more appealing (wages, benefits) - Construction unemployment remains one of the highest of any job category, exceeded only by "Leisure and Hospitality" - every other sector has lower unemployment.

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