Where Will Tomorrow’s Skilled Construction Laborers Come From?

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We need some ideas on how to rebuild our construction skilled labor pool.  Look at any construction site and you will be hard pressed to find anyone under the age of 40.

Who do we reach out to in order to solve this problem?  The workers who came through the building recession did so because they were seasoned, more valuable and had multiple skills.  What we lost were many younger, potential future laborers who were forced to pursue other opportunities because of the construction crash which started in 2008.

A statistic that was release by the Associated General Contractors of America cited that employment declined in 179 out of 337 metropolitan areas between April 2010 and April 2011.

As recently as June 2016, news articles cited concern about the labor shortage.    In 2015 articles brought the issue to light as construction rebounded in cities like Denver and Nashville. Even the issues around immigration raise concern about where qualified laborers will come from in the future.

Historically, apprenticeship programs associated with trade unions have pumped skilled electricians, plumbers, roofers and tradesmen of all sorts into the marketplace but the attrition rate is catching up with them.

CertainTeed and our parent company Saint-Gobain have partnered with an organization called YouthBuild USA which provides training to urban students who have not completed high school and now have a desire to do so.  Through classroom and onsite construction skill training, students who complete the program receive their diploma or GED and the necessary baseline technical skills needed to seek employment in the trades.  It’s a great program but given the scope of the shortage there needs to be additional avenues to help rebuild this critical work force.

The residential housing market is heating up which we have all been waiting for but will it be stalled because we don’t have the skilled artisans to get the jobs done?

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas or possible solutions.

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Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

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