With more than 17 percent of the craft workers retiring in the next five years it is more important than ever to train tomorrow’s construction workers. The construction industry is falling short of its workforce demand by almost 1.6 million positions by 2022, based on the latest estimates by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
In December 2004, economic think tank The Brookings Institute released a study titled Toward a New Metropolis: The Opportunity to Rebuild America. The study noted that “Residential and commercial development in the next 25 years will eclipse anything seen in previous generations,” and that “Nearly half of what will be the built environment in 2030 doesn’t exist yet.”
Still the lack of a skilled workforce continues to be a challenge for contractors and owners alike. The 2016 Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) chairman and president of Willmar Electric Service, David Chapin, said that, “ABC members report that they could do more work if they had the skilled workers to do the jobs.”
The problem is multifaceted. Despite much evidence to contradict the outcome, our education system still prepares the vast majority of students for a college education while little is being done to either promote or prepare young people for careers in the construction trades. Simultaneously, for years the industry thought the only valid way to learn was working from the bottom up with training happening only on the job.
However, construction, like most other careers, has become increasingly technical and specialized and training is essential to ensure that we have a highly-skilled workforce for the future.
For employers, investing just one percent in training can deliver double-digit returns.
A recent study by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) found that investing just 1 percent of a project’s labor budget in training could have double-digit returns. The study showed that 1 percent yielded: 11% improved productivity; 14% decrease in turnover; 15% decrease in absenteeism; 26% decrease in injuries; and 23% decrease in rework. These are savings that far exceed the investment in training.
For those interested in joining the trades.
The average 2015 college graduate owes about $35,000 in student loan debt—the highest level in history, according to government data. Despite lower national unemployment figures, many of these four-year graduates have little guarantee of job placement, making for an unstable future.
The average construction industry graduate who completes an associate’s degree or a state-funded, certified two- three- or four-year apprenticeship program, (the average electrician, welder or plumber) stands to earn more than $50,000 a year right out of the gate. He or she has little to no student loan debt, and already holds a high-paying job—plus career skills that are in top demand as the baby boomer generation retires.
In Washington we have a myriad of training programs that support the industry. ABC offers a wide variety of training classes including safety, project management and in conjunction with Toastmasters, public speaking and presentation. For training in the trades, ABC’s partner, the Construction Industry Training Council of Washington (CITC), offers state-approved apprenticeship and craft training in the carpentry, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, heavy equipment operator, painting, plumbing, laborers, residential electrical, low energy and sheet metal trades. For more information go to: www.citcwa.com
Nationally there are a number of resources as well:
The first National Craft Championships was held in 1987 with only a handful of participants competing in four craft competitions. Some 25 years later, more than 2,000 men and women have competed in what has grown to become one of the construction industry’s most recognized and revered craft skills events, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our member firms and ABC chapters. The ABC Workforce Conference site is www.nationalcraftchampionships.org
For those considering construction careers: ABC’s Careers in Construction – http://careers.abc.org