by Sandy Griffis, Executive Director, Yavapai County Contractors Association
Every month I write about how the construction business is having trouble attracting workers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, and an analysis of U.S. Census data by Issi Romen, Chief Economist at Buildzoom, the share of workers in the sector 24 years old or younger has declined in 48 states since the last housing boom in 2005. Nationally, the share of young construction workers declined nearly 30 percent from 2005 through 2016, according to Romen.
While there’s no single reason why younger folks are losing interest in a job that is generally well paid and doesn’t require a college education, their indifference is exacerbating a labor shortage that has meant fewer homes being built and rising prices, possibly for years to come.
Construction’s inability to attract young workers is something of a mystery, industry executives say.
YCCA is so excited to bring forward in January 2019, a Job Workforce Boot Camp. The boot camp is for youth 18-24 who want to “lace it up” and complete three weeks of exciting industry training and then be offered a great job. Several of our local builders and suppliers and subcontractors want to hire, are willing to hire and will take on untrained youth.
This exciting boot camp will transition our youth into a workforce in the construction trades. The construction industry provides a great pathway to a rewarding career.
What we are faced with are kids who do not see the construction industry as fun. Young people don’t know if they’re good at it or not because they’re not exposed to it, so our boot camp is going to expose them to various construction trades and job possibilities.
There is an enormous demand for a construction workforce. Out of 20 workforce sectors in Yavapai County, construction is the fifth largest industry with government No. 1, healthcare No. 2, retail No. 3 and food service No. 4. From the same 20-sector industries, construction is the third top growing industry in Yavapai County, with food service No. 1 and health care No. 2.
As we know, the industry lost tens of thousands of workers during the economic downturn, and many never returned. Workers retired, retrained for other careers or were immigrants who returned to their home countries. As of today we have failed to replenish our ranks with newcomers even as construction has boomed. Why is that?
While workforce issues remain a big concern, there are other issues that spin off the shortage of workers.
Project delays are one. Our local architects, design firms and engineers are faced with increased workloads, and municipalities are experiencing backlogs due to the numerous projects submitted for permits. Some products cannot be manufactured fast enough to accommodate installations, such as pavers. This creates a growing delay in our area.
Escalation of prices in common building materials such as concrete, drywall and piping materials are a big concern in the construction industry. With market uncertainty, commodity pricing on such products as steel, copper, aluminum and lumber is changing weekly, which is driving up the cost of construction, and in turn an owner’s ability to stay within budget. It’s a constant challenge to keep up with the pricing and availability of raw materials.
The other major item of concern is maintaining and training a workforce that understands the importance of jobsite safety. Every effort must be made to train the new populace of workers to build and improve upon the great legacy and heritage of the construction industry.
On the positive side, the industry is delivering more with fewer resources. Let’s call it “lean construction.” The industry is doing more work with fewer workers and is making tough decisions, resetting its vision and becoming more resourceful.
I wonder if we will see more prefab building materials, automation and possibly robotics taking place in the industry. Will the craftsmanship and artistic value disappear?
To the young people out there — construction is a viable industry sector. There are plenty of jobs waiting for you. Work hard and get out in the field and experience what the business is all about. There are many local companies that would love to train you, teach you their level of experience and mentor you and put you in a very rewarding field.
Construction is a GREAT industry and viable career for young individuals. If you enjoy building things and helping shape the community in which we live, then this is the industry for you. Construction will likely become one of the highest paying careers for individuals to enter.