The Impact of the Shortage of Skilled Workers on America’s Construction

According to a study from the USG and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, two-thirds of contractors say they will hire in the next six months. And 95% of them reported having a moderate to difficult time finding skilled workers for their job openings in the second quarter of 2017. Is lack of skilled worker delaying road construction projects? In many cases, there’s simply more work than workers.

Road Construction Worker Shortage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 125,000 civil engineering construction jobs in the United States in 2014. Highway, street and bridge and other heavy and civil engineering construction accounted for 75,700 of those positions. The USDOT estimates that more than half the current highway construction workforce is over the age of 45 and, with retirement, separation, and growth, more than a 500,000 highway construction jobs are projected over the next decade.

Industry experts say that construction-related trades lost nearly a million skilled workers during the recession, and as older workers retire, the crunch will get even tighter. As some contractors went out of business during the Great Recession, many skilled workers sought other areas of employment. Many of them never came back – even when the economy rebounded and their previous skill set was in high demand.


Road Construction Skills Gap

The elimination of shop class in high schools has played a role in expanding the skills gap. For many students, this was their first exposure to the kind of hands-on experience that could inspire interest in a career in a trade. In a proactive move to address this gap and enhance skills, states like Florida, California, and Idaho sought out funds from the Ladders of Opportunity Initiative On-The-Job Training/Supportive Service grant program. The Idaho Transportation Department used their grant funds to provide training targeted to women, veterans, and minorities for careers in construction. The three-week course focused on skills such as heavy equipment operation on a range of machines from backhoes and excavators to rollers and forklifts.

So what can be done to find and hire skilled workers?

Filling this gap is going to take effort on all fronts, including encouraging America’s youth to return to the industry. Beginning in January 2018, the Technical College System of Georgia will add construction degrees to the HOPE Career Grant program offering tuition waivers for high-demand career fields. This is in addition to their programs in engineering and trucking.

It’s important to consider ways to get construction employment messages in front of likely candidates and interested audiences. Thinking outside the box includes promoting open positions and career paths on social media and partnering with local school systems in developing training programs. Construction companies also need to offer a great working environment and first-rate benefits to attract interested workers, whether they are looking to get started in the construction industry or make a move.

If you’re looking to make a career in the road construction industry, you also need a company that looks out for your success and professional development. E.R. Snell conducts our business with the highest standards of ethics set forth more than 90 years ago and will continue to uphold these principles and values for years to come in every commitment that is made by the company. Contact us or check out our job board to learn more about working with E.R. Snell today!