The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 07, 2014

Survey indicates construction will have better pay; fewer, poorly trained workers

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Construction industry personnel shortages wasn’t the only thing on the minds of U.S. contractors responding to the Associated General Contractors industry survey, released Oct. 22.

But the perception of worker shortages certainly seemed to color their view of the industry, and how they could best guide their business in such an environment.

Following are some additional take-aways from the AGC’s survey, conducted in August and September 2014, which got a response from more than 1,000 construction contractors across the U.S.

*Worker shortages are prompting many firms to increase pay, benefits and overtime. The survey said 59 percent of construction firms report they have increased base pay rates for construction craft workers in an effort to retain and attract workers. And 24 percent report providing incentives and/or bonuses while 23 percent have increased contributions to, or are improving benefits for craft workers.

*Despite offering higher pay and better benefits, many firms are losing workers to other construction firms and other industries. Twenty eight percent of firms report losing craft workers to other local construction firms while 15 percent report losing them to construction firms in other parts of the country. At the same time 25 percent of firms say they lose craft workers to other industries in their area.

*Eighty two percent of firms believe it will become harder, or continue to be hard, to find and hire craft workers during the coming 12 months. Only 4 percent of firms expect it will get easier.

*Most contractors have a low opinion of the craft workers training pipeline. “One reason many contractors don’t think the labor market will improve soon is because they have a particularly low opinion of the training pipeline for craft workers, and to a lesser extent for construction professionals,” the AGC said. Fifty five percent of firms rate the overall quality of the local pipeline for new construction craft workers as poor or below average while only 8 percent say it is above average or better.

*There is a direct relationship between the severity of craft worker shortages and the quality of the local training pipeline. In the South, where 86 percent of contractors report having a hard time finding qualified construction craft workers, 67 percent of contractors rate the local training pipeline as below average or worse. Conversely, in the (more unionized) Northeast, where only 67 percent of contractors in the Northeast report having a hard time finding qualified construction workers, contractors have a better opinion of the quality of the construction training pipeline, with 53 percent saying local training programs are average or above. In the Midwest, 45 percent of respondents said the local training pipeline was average or above.