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The Future of Skilled Labor

Business is full blast for many in the construction industry today. We are fortunate to have work because of past relationships, new opportunities, and just the general demand that has to be filled. Our team recently attended a retail conference and our industry from an economics standpoint was a huge topic. It was refreshing to see the data supporting the positive trend since the recession and even more uplifting to take a glimpse at the future numbers for construction. These are positive signs for our business. However, with all the good things, there are hurdles we face each day. To name a few – rising construction costs, inability to meet demand, and what we feel is most important is the decrease in availability of skilled workers.

The lack of skilled workers in our industry and in the general workforce exists for a variety of reasons, but I believe the root of the skilled labor problem is a deep one. We have noticed the issues as a generational concern and a shift in societal values that we are currently battling that will only further affect the future of our industry.

If you look around on many of the construction sites today you will see that many of the master electricians, pipe fitters, and carpenters, among others, belong to Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation (ages 36 to 66). These are the guys and gals that were brought up to work with their hands, and their parents instilled a great work ethic in them, teaching them to work hard for what they want. This group of individuals holds many of the secrets and tips of the trade that make our industry successful. Some of them have exited the industry since the recession, and those still found on the job site are approaching retirement age. So what’s next?

I am a Millennial—part of the generation of current 20-to-35-year-olds. I was raised by hard working parents who felt they wanted something better for me than working as hard as they have in their career. Since childhood, many members of my generation felt the enormous push to go to college. Not only did our parents suggest this, but the K-12 education system is structured to prepare and guide students toward a college career path. Unfortunately, vocational education and apprenticeship opportunities have taken the back seat for too long. I am very thankful to have a challenging and fulfilling job in the construction industry, but what I do in my role does not help the problem we are facing. We still have to get things built. There is currently a huge void that only gets bigger as the older skilled workers leave the industry. It is important in my role to help show the value of skilled labor, to express its importance of the role in the workforce, to show the success found on that path, and reverse the trend.

To all the skilled professionals out there, we are thankful for what you mean to our industry. Continue to educate those of younger generations who have interest and educate your kids and grandkids about the importance of working with your hands. Your skill set is truly something you should be proud of. I think most of you will enjoy this video as it hits home to the skilled labor trend, with some humor.

Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) Testifies before US Senate about Skilled Trades

Thanks,
Tristan Morgan

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