Seven in 10 construction companies say they're having difficulty finding enough skilled hourly workers, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk.
Shortages were most common in the West (75%) and least common in the Northeast (63%). Companies are addressing the issue through in-house training (46%), more overtime (47%), increased use of subcontractors (41%), labor-saving equipment (22%), offsite prefabrication (11%) and virtual construction tools.
Increased construction demand was reflected in hiring growth from July 2016 to July 2017 in 258 of the 358 markets tracked. Of those surveyed, 67% said it will be more difficult to meet their labor demands this year.
The reality of the labor shortage is especially daunting as the country gears up for a potentially massive infrastructure program. That has left some contractors wondering how they're supposed to participate when they are finding it difficult to meet current demand.
Last December, Jeff DiStefano, the current chairman of the New York State chapter of the AGC and CEO at Harrison and Burrowes Bridge Constructors, nearly Albany, NY, told Construction Dive that although the labor shortage wasn't as severe in the Northeast as it was in other areas of the country, the region was still struggling to replace older workers that were retiring. If and when Trump's infrastructure program gets underway, DiStefano said, it will be "a stretch" to find enough help.
In June, the president signed an executive order that authorized the diversion of $200 million in Department of Labor job training funds toward apprenticeships. The president expressed a desire to create 5 million apprenticeships in the next five years. Yet Trump's 2018 budget request cuts DOL training and employment service funding by 21% and eliminates $1 million in women's training programs. The president said those cuts would be made up for through the apprenticeship initiative.
Trump also wants to give the private sector more control over apprenticeships and not require them to register their programs with the DOL. Critics have said that could result in low-quality training.