by Sandy Griffis, Executive Director, Yavapai County Contractors Association
As the economy in Yavapai County continues to recoil from the Great Recession, the one single most important industry key to the economy – the construction industry – continues to grapple with finding the workforce needed to sustain demand and growth.
This is not just a Yavapai County conundrum. This is an issue that affects the entire United States.
Recently, a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America highlighted that 86 percent of contractors report struggling to fill hourly craft jobs and salaried professional positions.
After years of indoctrinating youth that bachelor’s degrees are a must, we need to broaden our focus toward encouraging the trades. We also need people who are willing to work.
Pat Dugan, owner of A Action Welding said, “From Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2017 we hired 44 people. Four never actually showed for their first day of work; eight showed up their first day and either never came back from lunch or never showed up for the second day, and 13 told me, ‘I just don’t want to work a job this physical.’”
Eleven had to be released because of drug/alcohol use. Three moved on to employment in their field of school study, following their dreams, and they worked for the company until their career job became available. One employee moved out of the area, and four stayed with the company and have become an integral part of the team. Four permanent employees is a 9.09 percent ratio.
This highlights the issue of a diminished work ethic in the remaining workforce.
The economic importance and significant value of increasing the construction trade workforce not only affects the construction industry, but also impacts the industry customers, vendors and manufacturers, and all of these components limit our ability to grow by delay of and extended delivery of the product, which in turn slows economic growth.
Unfortunately, skilled trade jobs are vacant because the construction industry isn’t discussed as a viable career option. We don’t have a skills gap resulting from a lack of training programs. We have 10,000 construction jobs in Arizona waiting for someone willing to learn a skill and build a career.
Construction industry veteran Tom Reilly, owner of local company Renovations, said, “Construction is a lucrative career without college debt.”
He added, “With minimal training, men and women can start a career in construction trades. A willingness to learn from the basics up becomes the path to learn and earn their way to the top.”
The average wage in the industry is $49,000 per year (a skilled tradesperson with supervisory skills can earn twice that) in Arizona, which is higher than Arizona’s average salary across industries, according to a 2017 statewide study by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
Brian Bombardieri, past-president of YCCA and current owner of B’s Contractors, a family-owned company since 1979, started out working for his father, hauling rock and doing general labor work.
“There are plenty of opportunities for those wanting to continue to learn,” Bombardieri said. “My dad transitioned me from hands-on work to leading an entire construction company as an owner.”
Construction has great starting pay, few barriers, immediate job availability and the ability to grow into a lifelong career, and people aren’t applying.
In addition to a shift in mindset about careers in construction, trades education needs to be reintroduced to our secondary and post-secondary educational institutions. We in the industry need to step up and hire trainees and mentor them.
It’s time to dispel the stigma that construction jobs aren’t for “my kid.” Construction is a viable career path with a multitude of opportunities to suit all interests.
It’s time to step up, all of us!