AUSTIN, Texas — American construction companies are facing increasing challenges hiring and retaining qualified workers. The problem is especially bad in Texas, where 90 percent of construction companies report problems finding qualified craft professionals and half are losing their workers to other industries, mostly to the oil and gas industry.
The Construction Citizen blog reported this data from a new survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) during August and September of over one thousand companies nationwide. Specific results from the Texas based companies showed that among the positions that were most difficult to fill were project managers, engineers, and specialized craft workers like roofers (one hundred percent of companies answering the survey reported problems hiring roofers), iron workers, bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, welders, electricians, drywall installers, and cement masons.
The Dallas Morning News also had an article last month describing this problem of construction workers to other industries, including the “rising demand for oilfield workers,” which it said was “raising costs and increasing building times in the state.”
The survey showed that Texas companies were responding to the worker shortage by raising pay and benefits across the board for both “white collar” and “blue collar” workers. For construction professionals, 69 percent of the Texas companies had raised their base pay, 35 percent had offered bonuses and other incentives, and 20 percent had increased employer contributions or otherwise expanded employee benefits. For construction craft workers, 78 percent of the companies had given raises, 39 percent offered bonuses, 28 percent improved employee benefits, and 20 percent paid more overtime.
Texas’ construction industry does not expect the situation to improve in the next twelve months, with 41 percent saying it would continue to be difficult to hire professionals, 29 percent saying it would get harder to hire professionals, 47 percent saying it would continue to be difficult to hire craft workers, and 36 saying it would get harder to hire craft workers.
Other noteworthy results from the AGC survey include the following: 83 percent of Texas construction companies are “open shop,” or non-unionized, 22 percent had turned to recruiting from outside their area for construction workers, 47 percent had used subcontractors to fill hiring needs, and 40 percent had turned to a staffing company.
Another Construction Citizen post described the issue as a “war for talent” between the construction and oil industry:
“The energy companies are looking for the same type person as our craft workers and engineers. This has become exacerbated with the wonderful (for Houston and Texas) shale gas boom…[and] these energy companies are raising the stakes for the high school graduate with some technical aptitude, that young person good with their head and hands. They also want the college graduates with engineering degrees, as do many other industries. So we have real tough competition from big, powerful and prosperous companies.”
The solution, according to many in the construction industry, is increasing the availability of job training, especially for young workers. When asked to rate the “overall quality of the local pipeline for training new construction craft workers,” only four percent answered “above average,” and not a single respondent said “excellent.” Thirty-nine percent said “below average” and 26 percent said “poor.”
Photo credit: Creative Commons licensed image via Wikipedia.
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