Construction trade school grads and tradeshow attendees are making the most of their jobs in the face of an unprecedented shortage of skilled labor, according to a new report.
The Association of Contractors and Technicians said its survey found that a growing number of workers were using the skills they learned in school to get by, but those skills are increasingly being lost to the global economy.
While more than 70% of the country’s workforce is employed in construction, there’s been a significant decrease in the number of students pursuing the trade, which includes many trades related to carpentry, bricklaying, electrical work and welding.
And as demand for skilled workers continues to rise, many are choosing to get out of the profession altogether, the association said.
The report comes as construction industry employment is projected to grow at a rate of 9.6% in the fourth quarter of 2021, according the American Institute of Architects.
The industry is already a $1.6 trillion market, but the economy is also growing more slowly and the supply of skilled workers is falling.
In fact, the report found that while the construction industry is expected to grow by about 1.5% in 2021, the industry is forecast to lose more than one-fifth of its workforce to automation and globalization.
“Our survey of 1,200 industry executives, tradeshow participants, and government employees reveals that the shortage of qualified construction workers has been growing since the early 2020s,” said Michael F. Pinto, senior vice president and director of the AIA.
“There’s been an almost complete shutdown of construction tradeschools in the last decade, and in many instances the demand for apprenticeship students is declining.”
More: Construction workers, in general, have been losing out on jobs, but that’s largely because they’re doing less work, he added.
“They’re taking less training, less training than they would have in the past,” said Pinto.
“That’s not sustainable.
The supply is going to have to increase and the demand is going, if we want to keep up with the demand.”
The report found construction tradeshops have been shuttered, with only three remaining in the country.
And those closures have been particularly severe in the Midwest, where the construction trade is growing in popularity, according AIA president and CEO Tom C. Smith.
“We are seeing a resurgence in the availability of construction apprentices, as a result of the federal construction budget,” he said.
“The fact that these schools have been able to survive without students is a testament to the skill set they have.
They are doing a great job.
There’s still a tremendous supply of construction workers in the US, but we don’t have enough skilled workers in this country to make the necessary trades.”
And it’s a problem that’s spreading.
While only 10% of all tradespeople were in school in 2020, by 2021 that figure has jumped to 15%, and the number is projected for the next two years to rise to 20%, according to the AICA.
“This is a problem we have to address,” Smith said.
In addition to the shortage in skilled workers, the AOCE said that many employers are turning to robots to do the work they once performed by hand.
“A large portion of the tradeshow and construction industry has moved to automation,” Smith explained.
“If we’re not able to use the skills that we learned in the classroom, the jobs that we have in our current manufacturing plants are going to be outsourced to the machines.”
But the jobs being outsourced aren’t necessarily good ones.
“You have to remember, the work that you do in the trade is a skill that you are developing and you are learning, so the trade school is a good place to start learning how to do it,” said Smith.
And some companies have also started using robots to handle the construction work.
The Associated Builders and Contractors Association estimates that the U.S. has over 5,300 building contractors and tradespeople.
But the trade trade isn’t necessarily the only sector in need of a skilled workforce.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business, there are 3,000 more construction tradespeople and tradesmen than there are people employed in the construction sector.
And the AUC said that over the past decade, the construction workforce has declined by 1.7 million workers.
But according to Smith, “we’re still able to maintain a steady supply of workers in these jobs.
If we don, we are going down in the economy.”
So what can you do to get more jobs?
The AOCe said it has several things it can do to keep the economy going, from expanding apprenticeship programs, expanding the number and quality of apprenticeships available, expanding apprenticeships in the public and private sectors, and increasing funding for job training.
And, it said, it is also encouraging companies to hire more workers and to invest in training and apprenticeship opportunities.
But Smith said there