One of the biggest foreseeable problems facing the construction industry in the coming years is the skills gap. This term refers to the shortage of skilled workers available in the labor market. A 2015 survey found that 86% of participating construction firms report struggling to find qualified employees to fill open positions.

Jobs in high demand with low competition include: carpenters, sheet metal installers, concrete workers, project managers, and supervisors. As a result, many companies have raised salaries to recruit new talent, while others have resorted to subcontracting and third party labor firms. With fewer full-time, well trained employees on the job site, safety has become an increasing concern.

The Ripple Effect

Other consequences of the skills gap in the construction industry are high prices and longer project times. Home builders across the country have reported an increase in home prices due to higher labor costs. Fifty-eight percent of firms report problems with on time project completion and 26% report projects have become unprofitable.

Bad Timing

This shortage of workers couldn’t come at a worse time. The country’s construction slump following the 2009 recession is finally over and the construction industry is booming again. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 13% growth of construction jobs by 2024, which is faster than the average for all jobs.

This increase in demand is coupled with a mass exit of retiring baby boomers. To make matters worse, a lot of construction workers left the industry after the recession and haven’t returned. In the past this wouldn’t be too problematic because there was a fresh crop of new workers graduating vo-tech and trade school.  Sadly, many of these programs were casualties of the recession as well, making it harder for young workers to get the training they need.

The reality of the skills gap is unavoidable. Moving forward, construction firms will need to make a concerted effort to retain existing employees and recruit new employees. This may involve providing training and taking a closer look at what employees want. Government funding of trade schools will also play a vital role in the closing of the skills gap.