Bishop handles recruitment, labor survey efforts and training for PICCO and says that based on his recent experiences, there is a shortage. “What’s more,” warns Bishop, “is that predictions from everyone are that shortages are going to be even more severe as owners get their projects back online and get them out to bid.”
“I think everyone understands that there is a shortage in the Gulf Coast,” says Bishop. “We need to look beyond just that region, though. The Gulf isn’t the only risky area because there are big projects and big labor issues all over the place. I think as the CLMA® database continues to grow across the U.S., it will become clear this is truly a national problem.”
Bishop is referring to the Construction Labor Market Analyzer® (CLMA®), which is a labor forecasting tool that PICCO uses to better plan, prepare for and properly bid on projects. “We always do at least a four year projection of labor needs for projects we’re proposing or are likely to propose. The CLMA® helps us look at the supply and demand, and allows us to bounce the data off other resources and validate our own internal data. Then we can decide if we’re able to get workers to the site, how we want to bid―or even if we want to bid at all.”
Larry Williams, Manager of Business Development at PICCO, jokes that the current labor situation often has Bishop “concerned.” As part of a North American construction enterprise with over $5.5 billion in annual construction, stemming from projects across multiple business sectors in the United States, Canada and Australia, it’s easy to imagine how a labor shortage could impact the multiple projects that PCL is involved with, at any one time.
“If you start playing skilled labor roulette, you are going to pay the price,” says Williams. “Wages and per diems will escalate, and owners could be forced to wait months for labor to be available, in order to start, continue or finish their projects.”
Looking ahead is the only way to avoid these costly dilemmas and the CLMA® helps do that. “It is incredibly important for us to be able to look at what other projects are going on where we might be building, to know what craft workers for the various trades are already employed in the immediate area, and to have a visual on where other available trades may be able to travel from, to get to our project sites. We need this information in order to bid accurately on projects,” says Bishop.
Bidding accurately and avoiding cost over-runs is something all owners appreciate. They also appreciate when contractors are aware of the seriousness of the craft shortage issue. “If someone walks into a bid today, and says there are no shortage issues to worry about or plan for, most owners are going to raise an eyebrow,” says Williams. He adds that, “Any owner that is using CLMA® is going to question how thoroughly that contractor understands the entire skilled labor market.”
Contractors and owners alike need to get on board and employ the CLMA®, says Bishop. “If contractors and owners aren’t factoring labor shortages into their bids and projects, I believe they’re facing a comet hurdling through space with their names on it. There is so much information out there, written and anecdotal, that clearly indicates this is something to be aware of on a national scale. I really don’t know how any one can claim otherwise.”
As a heavy industrial contractor, known for its quality work in power plant construction, oil and gas, petrochemicals and refineries, PICCO isn’t taking any chances. “From my stand point,” says Williams, “if we didn’t plan ahead for craft labor, we would be the poster children for the worst of what could happen on a project. We demand highly skilled, very specifically trained workers. If they’re not available for a project, we know well in advance and we have plans in place so that projects finish on schedule.”
“Everyone is dealing with the same shrinking pool of labor,” says Williams. “At PICCO, we prefer to acknowledge the labor shortage issue and plan accordingly so that business carries on as usual.
The CLMA is designed to help owners, contractors unions and other industry stakeholders dynamically understand the skilled labor market and more effectively know how to employ risk mitigation strategies.