The median age of construction workers is 41 — the same as the overall workforce — according to a National Association of Home Builders analysis of data from the 2015 American Community Survey. That’s down slightly from 2013, when the median age was 42.
Workers in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest tend to be older, while workers trend younger in the Central and Mountain West states. Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut posted some of the oldest median ages for their construction workers at 47, 46 and 44, respectively. Nebraska, Idaho and the Dakotas reported the lowest median ages with half of construction workers there younger than 38.
Within the industry, jobs featuring younger workers tended to include helpers, roofers and equipment operators. Inspectors, construction supervisors and managers tended to be older.
The construction workforce trending older has been cause for concern in some parts of the U.S. as the industry continues to cite the skilled labor shortage as one of its most critical problems. The Northeast, especially, could face challenges as its current workforce ages out of the industry and the region struggles to replenish its worker pipeline.
Investment in vocational training curriculum for high schools is one way to regenerate the construction workforce, John Courson, president and CEO of the NAHB's Home Builders Institute (HBI) told Construction Dive in February. Still, such programs are often underfunded, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. In that state alone, 3,200 students are on high schools' Career/Vocational Technical Education wait-lists, per a November 2016 report from the center.
Programs, like the HBI, that partner with other industry groups, correctional facilities, high schools and the Department of Labor offer trade-specific training, pre-apprenticeship certifications and job placement. The goal is to help train younger workers for specific roles to mitigate challenges in the field presented by inexperience. The newly formed Colorado Homebuilding Academy is another example, offering hands-on training to high school students, veterans and the unemployed. It was created and is now supported by area builders who wanted to spur growth in the local labor force.
In a NAHB survey earlier this year, six in 10 single-family builders reported having already seen a marked number of older employees replaced by younger, less-experienced workers. And although new workers are necessary, they require extra observation and quality assurance that builders, many of whom are still reeling from the loss of manager-level workers during the recession, often can’t readily provide.