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Why Is There A Labor Shortage Now?

July 2, 2018

Cecilia De La Rosa

Cecilia De La Rosa

Industry consultants for years have warned of this coming situation. A cultural change in the emphasis on education combined with the aging of the workforce foreshadowed not only a decline in workers but a decline in experienced workers. Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group, identifies several reasons that contribute to the current labor shortage, including:

  • A move in the education system away from trades. “I think our educational system has diminished the opportunities for construction to be considered because they’ve taken away most classes related to the trades – shop class, auto mechanics, even welding,” Humphrey says. “Most schools just don’t offer those types of things anymore so people who might gravitate to those careers aren’t exposed to them.”

  • Reduced outside encouragement for construction. “High school counselors are slanted to prepare kids for college so that’s what they emphasize,” Humphrey says. “And because there are fewer trades-related classes in high school the trades and construction aren’t a focus.” He says a similar situation arises in the family where “there’s no real family encouragement to even consider construction as a career alternative” because the families aren’t exposed to it as a career choice.

  • Industry image. Humphrey says that in general the image of the construction industry doesn’t attract attention or generate enthusiasm. “The reputation and image contractors have hasn’t been great historically, so people aren’t looking for it and families don’t want their kids in it.”

Humphrey says that he’s been surprised that, even among families already in the construction industry, there’s little encouragement for their children to become involved. “I don’t understand it but there are really a lot of craftsmen who will tell me they want ‘something better’ for their kids,” Humphrey says. “They encourage them to go to college not, so they can come back and take over the business but, so they can ‘get a job doing something better than I’m doing.’ It’s hard for me to understand why they wouldn’t want their kids to follow them into an established business in an industry that has given them a good living and a nice life.

It’s ironic because some of the highest-paid average salaries are in the construction industry. “People often say they don’t like the ups and downs of the construction industry, where they get laid off when the economy is bad. But even when the economy is bad there are still a lot of contractors out there working and those contractors maintain the best workers,” Humphrey says. “So, if you work hard, if you have some skills and expertise, if you’re a valuable employee there’s a good chance you’re going to weather those types of downturns. Plus, in tough economic times all industries lay off workers, so construction is not alone.”

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