The good news is that construction firms are experiencing growing demand in 2014. According to a June 2, 2014 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, April was the second consecutive month during which non-residential construction spending increased.
The bad news is the resulting workforce shortages.
“For quite some time I had people coming up to me, telling me they couldn’t find work,” recalls Matt Campbell, who is with the Pelican Chapter Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC). “Now the issue has flipped; contractors are calling me and telling me they cannot find enough skilled labor. This is happening after just a slight upturn so what happens when the work really picks up?”
As the chapter’s Director of Workforce Development and High School Outreach Coordinator, it is up to Campbell to work towards a solution. “Our contractors and owners have large labor needs. Our chapter understands this and is working hard to train more skilled workers.”
The Pelican Chapter, with offices and training centers in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, was incorporated in 1980 as a result of the rapid growth of merit shop contractors in Louisiana. Workforce development is one of the chapter’s core focal points; the association includes in its mission the goal of enhancing the image of the construction industry and providing craft training to the industry.
Campbell says that part of the problem is that parents still do not believe that construction is a suitable career focus. “A lot of parents are still in the mindset that they want their kids to go to a four year college or university and come out with some sort of degree. While that is a good path for some, it is not the only path that can be taken.”
Part of Campbell’s job is to convince parents that the construction industry is not only a good career path, but that it can lead to great things. “Parents are a big influence on the decision when teenagers are deciding where to go to secondary school and what training to take. It is really important that we communicate with parents that the job prospects are excellent and that if their kids have training in a construction-related field, that they will have employment for at least the next ten years.”
How can Campbell guarantee this? For starters, he uses the Construction Labor Market Analyzer® (CLMA®).
“Now, more than ever, it is important to know which skilled craft and professional positions are in demand, especially in the long-term,” stresses Campbell. “If we know that the industry is short 50 engineers for a project scheduled for three years down the road, we can start training those 50 engineers now. Labor outlooks provided by the CLMA® enable us to predict with a high degree of accuracy what will be in demand and then we can decide if we need to ramp up existing training, or if we need to develop brand new training options.”
“It is a really good time to start in the construction industry,” says Campbell. “I know that industry understands this, but as an industry, we need to do a much better job communicating this to our future workforce.”
The effort needs to be two-fold, Campbell explains. “We need to demonstrate to kids in high school how cool jobs in construction can be and then explain to their parents that careers are also financially rewarding and that there are jobs long term.”
The CLMA® is designed to help owners, contractors, unions and other industry stakeholders dynamically understand the skilled labor market in a collaborative environment and more effectively know how to employ risk mitigation strategies.