Local Builders Seeking Skilled Workers

Local Builders Seeking Skilled Workers to Meet Rising Demand

With many residential construction workers having left the industry in search of other work during the housing downturn, home builders in the Triad and in many other areas of the country are increasingly voicing concerns about the supply of workers in key trades now that demand for new homes is ramping up in many markets.

Indeed, many skilled workers – such as carpenters, framers and roofers – were forced to seek employment elsewhere during the Great Recession, when more than 1.4 million jobs were lost as builders were forced to lay off workers or even close their businesses. Several trades retrained their construction workers and today many of them are no longer available to build houses. The latest government statistics bear this out: The number of open construction sector jobs in March was 147,000, the third-highest monthly total since the Great Recession ended.

A June 2014 survey of members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) further illustrates the depth of this problem. Six in 10 of those surveyed experienced delays in completing projects on time, 18 percent had to turn down some projects and 9 percent lost or cancelled sales because they had too few workers to complete their homes.

We’ve also experienced many of these issues here in the Triad. When builders are unable to schedule trades on time, it means that buyers are unable to move into their home on time. These delays and production logjams are hurting the housing recovery by increasing the cost of building homes and making housing more expensive for consumers.

As one of the few sectors where demand for new workers is rising, the housing industry is striving to meet this challenge by training more workers and leaders in the construction industry through HBI, a national leader in career training and NAHB’s workforce development arm. HBI offers educational programs in 44 states and the District of Columbia, reaching more than 13,000 students each year. These include more than 10,000 students in HBI’s pre-apprenticeship programs.

HBI Job Corps programs are located in 74 centers across the nation and offer pre-apprenticeship training in 10 residential construction trades. Those who graduate from the program enjoy an 80 percent job placement rate.

While the trades offer a great career path, regrettably fewer students are seeking careers in the construction industry because many parents and guidance counselors are steering them toward an academic pathway rather than a vocational route.

This is particularly unfortunate given the lack of skilled workers in the construction industry and the fact that those in the building trades earn good salaries and express high job satisfaction. The 2014 median annual wage of most positions in the residential building sector was $39,500 – 10 percent above the U.S. median annual wage of $35,540, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics Survey data and analysis by NAHB.

Attitudes must change if we are to meet the housing needs of a growing population in our area and around the country. Policymakers at all levels of government can help in this endeavor by supporting funding for building and construction trades education. Providing opportunities for students to learn a craft that will produce life-long career opportunities must be a top priority for a growing economy.

For more information about career training opportunities in the Triad, visit: http://144.208.71.238/~hbaws/, hbi.org or http://www.hbaws.org.