by Sandy Griffis, Executive Director, Yavapai County Contractors Association
Readers of our column know me all too well and that it is my belief there is much to love about the construction industry. It is difficult for me to stop gushing about construction.
We all know the labor market is a serious concern, and the U.S. unemployment rate decreased to 3.5% in September 2019 from 3.7% in the previous month. The last time the rate was this low was in December 1969, when it also was 3.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We have never seen numbers like this, and with the labor market being so tight many of our local contractors are having staffing issues and worry about finding workers.
Not only are construction companies faced with labor challenges, many manufacturers are having difficulties manufacturing products such as pavers, pipes, windows, doors and the list goes on, so the slowdown goes down the line.
There seem to be bottlenecks everywhere one looks, so the industry and everyone connected is “crotchety” and “cantankerous,” as they say, because work and projects cannot be churned out fast enough.
The construction industry is booming and experts expect growth to continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the construction industry to be one of the fastest-growing industries well into 2020 and beyond.
As a solution to the workforce challenge, YCCA is taking on education through our “boot camp.” YCCA on a grassroots level is ensuring that the next generation of high school students is interested in the construction industry.
Allan Crary of Haley Construction, YCCA’s 2019 past board president, said, “We need to introduce young men and women to this exciting field early and give them exposure to construction projects of all types.”
Brian Bombardieri of B’s Contractors, the YCCA 2020 board president, agreed and said, “We need to continually train our workforce on the latest technology and safety techniques. Education of the construction workforce can never stop, and it is a mission of YCCA to continue the interest for our young adults.”
The U.S. population is expected to grow from 321.2 million to 338 million by 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This increase results in a rise of residential housing and more than likely schools, hospitals, infrastructure and everything else associated with population growth.
Commercial construction will also continue to grow. With more consumer spending and governmental investment in tourism, office buildings and retail space, commercial construction businesses will reap the rewards.
Shortages of available, qualified construction workers will continue to become more severe in most parts of the country as demand for new projects grows. These shortages are prompting many firms to increase pay and benefits to retain and recruit from a relatively small pool of labor, which is good news for workers.
However, rising construction costs, longer completion times and fewer choices between contractors all pose significant risks to homebuyers and renters, private nonresidential developments, and infrastructure and public building projects.
Solving the chronic workforce shortages will require active support from all levels of government, construction companies and organizations like YCCA.
That is why we are so proud of our YCCA Workforce Bootcamp, growing workers from within our community. YCCA developed and established this in-house training program, and what a success it was. The intent is to counter the misconceptions that have stigmatized construction careers, despite the fact the pay is substantially better than in many other industries.
YCCA now has in place a second boot camp; a black-and-white training program to place young adults in an industry where there is growth.