Construction Industry Courts Next Generation of Workers

With the economy starting to come back to life, the Associated General Contractors of America is trying to boost training efforts to ensure that the industry has enough fresh hands on deck for future construction projects.

The construction industry isn’t holding its own in the era of millennials, and a key trade group has plans to change that.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), which this month reported the highest level of contractor employment since the nadir of the recession in June 2009, says the industry faces a new issue—a lack of new workers.

But it has big plans to construct something fundamental to solve that problem. This week, the association announced it would launch new efforts to draw more people into the trade. The approach is multipronged: It will focus on creating new educational opportunities—such as technical schools and apprenticeship programs, making it easier for veterans to get construction jobs—and it will push for immigration reform.

In a document laying out the plan [PDF], AGC said the recession had a direct impact on critical training infrastructure.

“These workforce shortages may at first seem [counterintuitive] for an industry that was forced to lay off more than 2 million workers since 2006,” the document states. “However, these shortages are the consequence of a series of policy, education, demographic, and economic factors that have decimated the once robust education pipeline for training new construction workers.”

slowing the Recovery

At an AGC event in Denver this week, officials noted that when construction companies don’t have enough workers, projects are delayed and economic recoveries in local areas around the country are held back.

While Denver, which is putting the finishing touches on a $500 million revamp of its Union Station Transit Center, is one of the exceptions to this rule—the association held the event in the city because in the last year, it has been a top 10 metro area for construction hiring—an overall lack of infrastructure to bring new workers into the industry could damage its progress.

“Unless there is action soon on these fronts, the construction industry in Colorado and across the country will face worker shortages with increasing frequency,” AGC chief economist Ken Simonson said in comments covered by the Associated Press.

The Denver area is a good example of the association’s approach in action: According to The Denver Post, the region, which has a large-scale mass transit program in the works, has a school training program called Workforce Initiative Now that has helped the Regional Transportation District add new workers.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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