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Can Young People Help Solve the Skilled Labor Shortage?
More and more college students are enrolling in construction trades. Could this be the answer to the skilled labor shortage? Here’s what builders need to know about these developments.
Increasing Interest Among Young People
While the construction industry has seen continued growth over the past half-decade, contractors have had a difficult time finding qualified help. Much of this is due to the attitudes of young people, who have been pushed toward white-collar jobs that don’t always pay what they promise.
As an aging population of skilled workers retires, young people have not stepped up to take their places. In turn, industry stakeholders have made an effort to increase industry exposure among Millennials while eliminating negative perceptions. While it remains unclear whether this strategy will ultimately put a dent in the skilled labor shortage, at least one report suggests it could be making a difference.
More Students Enrolling in Construction
According to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), construction trades are seeing the highest enrollment increase at four-year institutions. From spring 2016 to spring 2017, construction enrollment jumped 26.4 percent. This increase appears to suggest a rosier outlook for the high percentage of builders who have been hobbled by hiring challenges. In reality, however, it isn’t likely to be a silver-bullet solution for this complex issue.
A Complicated Problem
While young people do appear to be showing renewed interest in construction, this recent report doesn’t necessarily point toward an end to the lingering skilled labor shortage. According to the NSCRC, a large portion of students are pursuing careers in construction management, which doesn’t necessarily translate to skilled labor.
While most industry stakeholders agree that the skilled labor force desperately needs an infusion of young talent, this rarely comes from four-year institutions. In a recent report analyzing the causes of the skilled labor shortage, HomeAdvisor identified limited training resources, a lack of mentorship and apprenticeships as some of the biggest barriers that prevent new entrants from entering or remaining in the skilled labor market.
A Lingering Problem
According to the most recent USG and Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, 95 percent of contractors said they had a moderate to difficult time locating skilled workers in the second quarter of 2017. What’s more, about 50 percent said they expect these problems to worsen over the next six months.
According to the Index, the greatest skilled labor shortage is in concrete workers, with masonry, millwork, plumbing and electrical coming next. Unfortunately, these types of workers rarely come from four-year institutions.
Engaging Young People
Even if it doesn’t suggest an end to the skilled labor shortage, the NSCRC’s report could point toward shifting sentiments among young people in regard to the construction industry. That said, in addition to engaging younger generations of workers, the industry must also give them clear paths into the skilled labor market.
According to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), about half of responding contractors said they will increase their investment in employee development and training in the months ahead. This investment appears to be sorely needed, since the USG and Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index is predicting substantial increases in construction job openings, thanks in part to the Trump administration’s plans to spend $1 trillion on new or updated U.S. infrastructure.