In case you haven’t heard, there’s a labor shortage in the construction industry – a severe shortage. So if you’re planning to remodel your home, plan on waiting – waiting longer for supplies, longer for contractors to fit you in their schedule, and longer for the project to be completed. According to a recent NARI Workforce Development Study, the biggest impact in remodeling will be extended timelines on projects. Of the NARI members surveyed:
- 61% had to extend project deadlines
- 52% were forced to use sub-contractors
- 40% raised pay for employees
- 39% declined to provide a proposal
- 39% were more selective in accepting new clients
- 38% lost jobs
- 34% raised prices
- 23% reduced their marketing effort
Labor Shortage in Construction Industry
A recent Forbes article stated: “Several years after the Great Recession, it’s safe to say that America’s housing market is back…But one element of the housing industry has not returned: the workers. And this appears to have increased construction costs, becoming one of the under-reported factors behind America’s rising home sale prices.”
The NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) concurs. In their labor shortage survey, which tallies answers from the nation’s single-family home builders, they said, “the share of builders reporting either some or a serious shortage has skyrocketed from a low of 21 percent in 2012, to 46 percent in 2014, 52 percent in 2015, and now 56 percent in 2016.”
The net result, according to the 2016 survey, is that 75% of builders say they’ve had to pay higher wages and bids, 64% have delayed projects, and 68% have raised home prices.
What Caused This Workforce Shortage?
There are several contributing factors that have created this current shortage. Some are economic and others situational.
Recession Displaced Many Workers
Unfortunately, when jobs dried up during the recession, and were very slow to return, many workers left the industry. Many of them pursued higher education, or found jobs in other professions. At the same time, many foreign-born construction employees returned to their home countries. And, thanks to improved economic conditions in their homeland along with tougher immigration enforcement, most of them haven’t come back to America.
Educational Focus on STEM Curriculum
Another factor may be the focus on STEM in our national educational system. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Though the United States has historically been a leader in these fields, fewer students have been focusing in these areas recently.
As a result, the Obama administration announced the 2009 “Educate to Innovate” campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in STEM subjects. The Department of Education now offers a number of STEM-based programs, including research programs with a STEM emphasis, STEM grant selection programs and general programs that support STEM education.
While this is great news for those industries, little emphasis has been given to the trades. Classes like shop, woodworking, metals, and CAD design, that promote careers in carpentry, plumbing, masonry, HVAC, etc. have been essentially underemphasized and, in many high schools, removed altogether.
What’s Being Done to Fix the Shortage?
Now that this national shortage has become painfully obvious, there are people working to correct the problem. The Kansas City NARI chapter has created the Futures Fund (there is no apostrophe in Futures Fund. The national NARI organization is also working to promote trade professions in middle schools and high schools by creating a broader offering of trade/vocational training and more emphasis on young adults choosing a career path in a trade vs. attending a four-year college by introducing workforce development bills in Congress.
If you’re a homeowner, please do what you can to promote the trades to help mitigate this problem. You can donate to the Futures Fund at the link above. And most of all, be aware that you will have to budget more time into any home remodeling project you decide to undertake.