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As Construction Rebounds, More Skilled Workers are Needed
Posted by Tasha Weiss on October 30, 2012 at 3:32 PM.

The construction industry’s slow climb out of a long and deep recession will continue into next year, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 forecast. Released at the company’s annual Outlook conference last week in Washington, D.C., the report predicts construction starts to rise six percent to $483.7 billion.

 

So what does the future hold for construction jobs? According to a similar report issued earlier this month by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), construction employers added 5,000 jobs between August and September, while the industry’s unemployment rate hit 11.9 percent. AGC’s officials caution that construction employment has been relatively flat for more than a year, as growing demand for residential and some commercial projects has been offset by declining public sector construction activity.

 

“Despite the slight uptick in construction employment for the past month, the industry is a bit smaller than it was one year ago,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “It appears that for every rebounding market segment, there is another one that is shrinking.”

 

Nonresidential building contractors added 1,100 jobs in September but have lost 12,400 during the past 12 months. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 1,500 jobs for the month but lost 30,000 for the year. And the heavy and civil engineering construction sector lost 200 jobs in September but has added 14,600 since September 2011.

 

Sandherr also noted that more than two million former construction workers have left the industry, either to retire or for other jobs in faster-growing sectors. As a result, the industry will have a hard time finding skilled workers once construction demand rebounds. He added that federal tax and spending uncertainties are making it difficult for firms to encourage people to consider careers in construction.

 

“Becoming a skilled construction worker requires months of training and practice,” Sandherr noted. “It is hard to get new workers to start months of training for jobs that may not be there next year if firms are paying more in taxes and earning less on public projects.”

 

The shortage comes at a particularly inopportune time, as the construction industry is projected to have one of the fastest U.S. industry job growths through this decade and add nearly 1.3 million new jobs by 2018. The industry needs to attract about 185,000 new workers annually to keep up with the current employment demand.

 

New worker recruitment is crucial to avoid a net shortage of skilled construction workers in the coming years. One of the challenges is that many students today don’t realize there are advanced educational and training programs and good-paying career opportunities available in the trades.

 

One program hoping to tackle this challenge is the Build Your Future national educational and recruitment campaign. Organized by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), the program connects youth and displaced workers with career opportunities in construction and includes resources for prospective ironworkers and welders.

 

Part of the Build Your Future campaign is Careers in Construction Week, happening now through the end of this week, which is designed to increase public awareness of the hard work and contributions of our nation’s craft professionals and increase students’ interest in pursuing construction as a career.    

 

Various schools, contractors and organizations are partnering locally to host construction career events and programs during this week. These events allow students to speak directly to potential employers, and contractors can start a dialogue with potential employees.

 

For more information about this week’s events, visit http://byf.org/events. To learn more about the Build Your Future campaign, visit http://byf.org.


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