AGC: 80% of contractors report hiring difficulties, though confidence in industry is high

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AGC is calling for more federal funding and an expansion of apprenticeship programs to address the construction labor shortage. Photo courtesy of AGCAGC is calling for more federal funding and an expansion of apprenticeship programs to address the construction labor shortage. Photo courtesy of AGC

As construction firms continue to report difficulty in finding workers, Associated General Contractors is calling on federal officials to help the industry, including investing more in career and technical education.

AGC seeks a doubling in federal funding for such programs over the next five years. It also wants Congress and President Trump to reach an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform that “allows more people with construction skills to legally enter the country.” And it says the Trump administration should increase the number of apprenticeship and training programs in open-shop areas.

The renewed call for more federal support comes as AGC released its latest membership survey on August 27, which shows that 80 percent of contractors are having difficulty hiring hourly craft workers. The percentage is similar to previous surveys.

On a bright note, contractor confidence remains high, with 72 percent saying they plan to expand the number of employees in the next 12 months.

Some other steps AGC would like to see on a federal level include:

  • Passage of the Jobs Act, which would allow construction-focused community and technical college students to receive federal Pell grants.
  • Passage of a temporary visa program for construction workers.
  • More resources to fight the opioid epidemic, which has kept many potential workers out of the labor force.

AGC notes that the industry has been taking steps to address the shortage of hourly workers. Those include raising pay (66 percent of those surveyed), providing incentives and bonuses (29 percent) and improving benefits (25 percent). The same goes for salaried workers, with 58 percent raising pay and similar percentages as for hourly workers on bonuses and benefits.

Firms are also increasing in-house training (46 percent), and about 55 percent report getting involved with career-building programs at high school and college levels.

But they are also feeling a loss of confidence in their local workforce, with 45 percent saying the labor pool is poorly trained.

Some firms (29 percent) have been looking to technology to automate and simplify processes as a way to address the shortage. That technology includes drones, robots and 3D printers (24 percent).

Contractors report that the labor shortage continues to cause project delays (44 percent) and is leading to cost increases for construction projects (43 percent).

The shortage is also hitting all areas of the country: 83 percent of contractors in the South and West expect hiring difficulties over the next 12 months; 81 percent in the Midwest; and 75 percent in the Northeast.

The hardest positions to fill have been for concrete workers, pipelayers, carpenters, cement masons, and crane and heavy-equipment operators.

“Workforce shortages remain one of the single most significant threats to the construction industry,” says AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr. “However, construction labor shortages are a challenge that can be fixed, and this association will continue to do everything in its power to make sure that happens.”