It is an odd time for major industries in America right now. While unemployment remains at a consistent low of 3.9% and wages increase, many fields still find themselves facing labor shortages. Two of those industries are the construction and building products industries.
The construction industry currently averages 200,000 monthly vacancies, while the building products industry contributes to the manufacturing sector’s nearly 400,000 available jobs per month. Simply put, there are too many job openings and not enough workers that want to fill them.
So how do the construction and building products industries fix this issue? How do they find a way to fill all of these job openings with skilled, motivated workers? Read on to discover three potential solutions to the industries’ labor shortage problem.
Encourage and Emphasize Trade Schools and Trade Professions
The median age of a construction worker is 42.6, and less than 10 percent of the industry’s workers are younger than 25, a number that is lower than the national average. With more and more members of the “baby boomer” generation retiring, the construction and building products industries are in need of an influx of young, skilled workers.
But there’s hardly any interest in these two particular industries from younger adults who are ready to join the workforce. A major reason for that is the lack of importance placed on trade schools and trade professions.
Numerous high schools throughout America have cut classes like woodshop and placed a greater emphasis on going to college and earning a four-year degree. That focus needs to change in upcoming years for the construction and building products industries to attract new workers.
Programs that encourage trade professions must be maintained or restored, and students need to be more informed about alternative career paths that don’t involve a four-year, college education. Reform within high school curriculum and counseling is essential so to bring more awareness to positions within the construction and building products industries.
Because of these labor shortages, both the construction and building products industries have had to increase their wages to attract new employees. However, these higher wages can’t last forever, especially due to the growing cost of building materials, which continues to increase due to tariffs, such as the one the United States has imposed on different types of steel and the U.S.’s dispute with Canada over lumber imports. Plus, there are planned tariffs on aluminum and Chinese construction products.
Tariffs are causing major labor problems in both the construction and building products industries. For construction, it’s pretty simple: if you are spending more and more money on the products you need for projects, then you won’t be able to maintain high wages to attract employees. If you don’t continue to bring in new employees, then you will keep having labor shortage problems that affect future projects from being done in a correct and timely manner.
For the building products industry, the result of these tariffs is members receiving a flood of orders for particular products. They need more workers than they have right now to efficiently meet those orders, which is causing budget issues and long delays for construction projects.
That’s why reducing the amount tariffs, or flat-out eliminating most of them, is crucial to helping solve the labor shortage issue in both the construction and building products industries. Fewer tariffs leads to higher wages for those that are already members of these industries (or those who plan to join them soon) and a much more manageable workload. To put it simply, everything could run much more smoothly if there weren’t as many tariffs in place.
A major portion of the construction industry’s workforce consists of immigrants. This statistic is especially true for states along the southern border.
However, because of stricter immigration laws and harsher penalties for undocumented workers enforced by the past two presidential administrations, there has been a decline in immigration over the past decade-plus. Fewer immigrants are becoming a part of the construction industry, and as a result, more positions, such as construction laborer jobs, are available than usual.
Immigration reform would help solve the current labor shortage in the construction industry because it would encourage for workers outside of the United States to go through the proper channels, immigrate legally into America, and join the field’s workforce. A more streamlined immigration process that doesn’t dissuade newcomers but eases their fears and concerns could greatly benefit the construction industry.
Each of these solutions are important. However, there is a greater chance to have an impact on both the construction and building products industries if all three of them are implemented.
The only way to guarantee that these problematic labor shortages remain is to do nothing. Taking action is essential if those in these fields want to see their industries continue to grow and develop into the best possible version of themselves.
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