Construction Industry Aims to Rebuild Workforce Through Youth

construction industry

Strengthening the construction industry will be top of mind in Orlando in January when builders, designers and remodelers get the spotlight at the world’s largest residential construction show.

It’s no secret that labor shortages have been a big roadblock for residential and construction since the country emerged from the recession in 2008. Multifamily has felt the pain of construction delays, some attributed to lack of labor, along its record construction run in the last few years. In many cases, the delays have been costly.

U.S. construction industry lags behind in productivity

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, the U.S. construction industry lags behind the country’s annual productivity growth rate. Unless it changes, the management consulting firm says, builders won’t be able to keep up with future housing needs.

The National Association of Home Builders and National Kitchen & Bath Association will again host This Old House Generation Next and SGC Horizon’s Skilled Labor campaign Jan. 9-11 at the NAHB International Builders’ Show and NKBA’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. All dollars raised through the campaign during Design & Construction Week 2018 will go to the Skilled Labor Fund, an industry-wide effort to raise money to repair the lack of skilled labor in residential construction through vocational training.

The construction industry took a hit more than 10 years ago when the bottom fell out of the economy, and rebuilding the workforce has been slow.

More than 40 percent or nearly 2.3 million construction jobs were lost from 2006-11. By mid-2015, the industry had recovered only 1.3 million jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Also, U.S. construction companies hired fewer workers in 2017 than they did in 2016, and existing employees are working longer hours.

Younger workers aren’t interested in construction

The sluggish rebuilding pace can at least be partially attributed a dim view of the construction industry by young job seekers. A recent NAHB survey of 18- to 25-year-olds revealed only that only 3 percent were interested in making a career out of construction.

Norm Abram, a master carpenter on the television show “This Old House,” will explain why the skilled labor gap is at a “crisis level” and how to better ensure the future of building trades at the show, which draws 80,000 visitors from 100 countries each year. The industry is targeting younger workers to fill the void.

“Raising awareness of the building trades as a rewarding career path and mentoring a new generation of tradespeople has been an extremely gratifying experience this year,” said Abram. “I’m looking forward to continuing our effort to reinvigorate interest in our industry among young people and closing the skilled jobs gap.”

The NKBA is committing $10,000 in scholarship dollars to the effort, while also dedicating communications throughout 2018 through its skilled labor initiative aimed at changing traditional perceptions about vocational careers. NAHB and SGC are also contributing an additional $5,000 a piece to the fund.

“Closing the skilled labor gap is critical to the future health of our industry,” said NKBA vice president of industry relations Suzie Williford. “Without an army of skilled tradesmen and women, all construction projects will take much longer and cost much more.”

Show to feature future design and business direction

Running concurrent to the International Builders’ Show at the Orange County Convention Center, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show offers a look at the latest styles and trends and what’s on the horizon. Cindy Allen, Cindy Allen, editor in chief of Interior Design, will talk about key design and business directions that are likely to have an impact in 2018.

Allen, who has served as editor in chief of the magazine since 2001 and as chief design officer of parent Sandow Media since 2015, is regarded as one of the interior design industry’s key influencers.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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