What’s with the Construction Labor Shortage?

While the children of our generation are dreaming of being Doctors, Lawyers and Business Executives – the construction industry is wondering; who will take our place?  Labor shortages are no stranger to this industry anymore and 2017 is already struggling because of it. It’s easy to see this issue on the rise as we find it less and less popular for Construction to be a family business, a taught skill in schools – or even a hobby for the youth.  A lot of America’s youth are occupied with extra-curricular activities at school, enjoying social media and video games instead of working on the house with a family member and learning trades from the ground up.  It’s got us wondering – is skilled labor soon to be a lost art?

Opinions on this matter are all over the map.  Some millennials feel that it’s ok that a labor shortage is on the horizon, some believe that there are other things on the horizon that will take their place; such as 3-d printers or robots.  “3d printers will be building all of the custom designed homes of our future”; one visionary said.  One the contrary, our opinion is that we have to believe and argue – that no piece of technology can replace the craftmanship of a true carpenter – pounding his life’s experience and visions into every nail.  We can’t imagine the quality and integrity ever being the same!

In my opinion, one of the underlying issue as it pertains to the labor shortage throughout the US, is the loss of vocational programs in the school systems. The vocational programs are being deprioritized at schools, all at a time when many skilled tradesmen are making $100,000 a year. Students are increasingly being told that they need to go to college to be successful, which may or may not be true depending on the field of employment that is sought. There are many students who would greatly benefit from exposure to different opportunities and a different path in school, not to mention the lucrative job opportunities available in the skilled trades. -PJ Jenkins Jr. MIG Director of Strategic Growth and Business Development

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), an estimated 143,000 open construction opportunities are available across the nation.  It’s easy to assume that there should be an abundance of workers looking for construction work considering that people across the country report trouble finding jobs.  However, because the construction industry lost 2.7 million jobs between 2006 until 2012 during the recession, a lot of skilled trades workers were forced to leave the industry and seek work elsewhere.  The end result is that most of them have settled into new careers and never returned to their skill sets. Combine this with our previous mention of how the latest generation of youth aren’t aspiring to join this industry, how schools have cut programs that encourage development in this area – and how families are not passing this trade down the generations like they used to; we are faced with the shortage we now anticipate to increase over the years.

From the recession until now, there are still nearly 1 million fewer residential construction jobs and nearly a half million fewer commercial construction jobs available on the market.  Why? Because it is so hard for companies to find skilled workers, job completion rates have dropped and some companies are taking on fewer projects.  Additionally, a lot of small businesses were forced to close their doors and weren’t able to reopen.  This doesn’t mean that the jobs went away – because people are continuously seeking out contractors when work needs to be done.  It does mean that these jobs are costing the consumer more because the demand is high while the supply is low.  It also means other companies are facing higher demand and need to increase their staff to accommodate – and clients are waiting longer to launch their projects. Companies report that applicants flood in for open job postings; with a mere 5% of them qualified for the position that is being offered.

“The building industry is a great place to get started in the working world with a good-paying job in an honorable profession that has a path to advancement. We need to tell that story.” – John Courson, President and CEO, the Home Builders Institute

Companies fear that this is just the beginning of the labor shortage and hope to spread the word to communities to reconsider this as an honorable profession.  So much pride comes from building something that becomes a part of history.  A building in which celebrations will happen for years to come, hospitals where lives are saved – homes where memories are made!  It’s incredible to be a part of those things.

Building demand is projected to continually rise over the coming years. Maintaining this shortage will only ensure one thing – development will decrease, home prices will increase and building new business space may become un-affordable to aspiring business owners – which means fewer jobs for our future youth.  Construction is the foundation of everything.  The homes we live in, the restaurants we dine in, roads we drive on – places we work.  It’s time to remind the world of where it all begins.  Right here.

-Robin Slawnyk, MiG Construction


What’s with the Construction Labor Shortage?

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