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70% of Contractors Experience Difficulty Finding Qualified Craft Workers

Chronic labor shortages are changing the way many firms operate, recruit, and compensate workers; new workforce measures needed.

According to a recent survey by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 70% of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce. Association officials said many firms are changing the way they operate, recruit, and compensate, but cautioned chronic labor shortages could have significant economic impacts absent greater investments in career and technical education.

Craft worker shortages are the most severe in the West, where 75% of contractors are having a hard time filling those positions, followed by the Midwest (72%), the South (70%) and the Northeast (63%). The labor shortages come as demand for construction continues to grow. Construction employment expanded in 258 out of 358 metro areas that the association tracks between July 2016 and July 2017, according to a new analysis of federal construction employment data the association also recently released. Increasing demand for construction workers helps explain why 67% of firms report it will continue to be hard, or get harder, to find hourly craft workers this year.

Most firms report they are making a special effort to recruit and retain veterans (79%); women (70%), and African Americans (64%). Meanwhile, half of construction firms report increasing base pay rates for craft workers because of the difficulty in filling positions. Twenty percent have improved employee benefits for craft workers, and 24% report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.

Forty-six percent of firms also report they are doing more in-house training to cope with workforce shortages, while 47% report they are increasing overtime hours and 41% are increasing their use of subcontractors. In addition, 22% report they are increasing their use of labor-saving equipment, 11% are using offsite prefabrication, and 7%are using virtual construction methods like BIM.

The AGC’s CEO Stephen Sandherr called on federal, state, and local officials to act on the measures in the association's Workforce Development Plan to address the growing worker shortages. In particular, he urged the Senate to pass legislation to reform and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

The survey was conducted in July and early August and had more than 1,600 respondents. Click here to see the national survey results, analysis, of the data and regional and state-by-state results.




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