The U.S. construction market is booming with no signs of slowing down. According to the USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, 93 percent of contractors expect to see equal or greater profit margins in the next year. The question is how much of those profits will the construction industry invest back into the workforce.
As construction work has increased, the construction labor market has actually been in decline over the past 40 years, as has productivity. While the majority of contractors say they will hire new employees in the coming months, almost all are having a difficult time hiring skilled workers. And this isn’t expected to subside. About half of those surveyed reported that their ability to hire skilled workers will likely worsen.
This diminished supply of construction workers will ultimately have a significant impact on the development and renovation of buildings that house critical infrastructure like laboratories, hospitals, schools, dormitories, businesses and more. So, as the supply gap begins to impact other industries, how can the construction industry move forward in order to prevent negative effects on the overall economy? Here are some ways.
We need to continue our recent investment more heavily in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Many of the most valuable construction workers have an understanding of the science and engineering involved in projects. This empowers them to make more informed decisions about everything, from which building materials are healthiest to how the different materials affect one another.
To attract and support workers with this background to enter the industry, it’s important to place an emphasis on STEM education and careers. The ACE Mentor Program of America Inc. is a high school mentorship program for STEM students who are interested in construction, architecture and engineering. It is the construction industry’s fastest growing high school mentor program, reaching over 8,000 U.S. students in the 2016-2017 school year alone.