Building & Construction Industry Faces Aging Labor Force
As many of you know, our industry needs skilled laborers more than ever. In recent years, we have witnessed steadily increasing demand for skilled construction labor, but the skills gap in the labor market continues to increase as Millennials and younger Generation Xers make college a priority over technical and vocational school. There’s nothing wrong with this, and we applaud students who are putting a priority on attending a four-year college or university, but as a result, the future looks a bit uncertain when it comes to the next generation of skilled labor.
While the shortage is a national problem, specific regions of the United States are feeling the heat like never before. For instance, homeowners in the Northeast or Great Lakes area can expect to get their roof replaced, furnace repaired, custom cabinetry designed, or floor installed in the next 10 years, but there may not be the labor force in place to make upgrades efficiently.
Two years ago, Forbes published an article on the labor and hiring data from 2010 to 2012, which outlined the dire need for skilled talent. The hardest positions to fill were welders, electricians, machinists and other manufacturing and construction jobs…far above registered nurses, engineers, web development and other careers that are considered to be “highly in demand” in mainstream media.
The article goes on to say that “In 2012, 53% of skilled-trade workers in the U.S. were 45 years and older, according to EMSI, and 18.6 % were between the ages of 55 and 64. Contrast those numbers with the overall labor force, where 44 percent of workers were at least 45 years old, and 15.5% of jobs were held by the 55-to-64 demographic.”
While there are many reasons for the aging skilled labor force in America, much of the blame comes down to a few key factors. According to Forbes, “The heavy proportion of older skilled-trade workers puts into focus more than just the pending retirement for baby boomers and oft-cited but rarely quantified gap between the skills that employers need and available workers possess. It also touches on the fact that American high schools have largely shifted their focus to preparing students for four-year colleges rather than vocational school.”
Another major setback in the labor force came in the form of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Our industry took a major hit during these challenging years, and many workers left the industry completely to return to school, or change careers. Even as the construction industry swings back to pre-recession levels, many of these skilled laborers aren’t coming back.
While we can’t predict what’s to come, we hope that this trend will eventually reverse itself, and Americans will see the great opportunities that skilled labor has to offer. With the industry stabilizing, companies are doing all they can to entice employees.
Here at GMS, we have been doing our part to help. We have grown our company by providing employees with opportunities to tap into their potential, build their skills, develop a lifelong career path, and connect with a family of coworkers who love the industry. We foster a can-do attitude that is inclusive to all, and we support each other to improve not only our business but also the lives of our employees. With each passing year we aim to make the skilled labor force a more attractive profession for America.
Finally, we want to remind people that a career in skilled labor can be productive, entrepreneurial and rewarding. The labor force in our industry is aging rapidly. While we can’t reverse an aging workforce, we can seize the opportunity by recruiting young, qualified workers to join our community.
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