An Insider’s Look at America’s Construction Worker Shortage

With a rapid rise in construction and housing projects happening across the nation, the pressure is on construction companies to meet the demand and keep the momentum going. There’s just one problem; there are not enough construction workers.

When asked about the future of the workforce in her industry, Colleen Boretto, a partner in a San Diego, Calif. based construction management firm specializing in hospitality and multi-family residences, described a serious drop-off in the number of young people wanting to work out in the field.

“The majority of the workforce is aged 45 and up and there is a real void of people wanting to join. This problem is talked about a lot in our firm and across the industry because we are being pushed to find workers. In fact, our firm is behind schedule on many of our projects because we just don’t have the manpower, and most other general contractors would tell you the same thing,” Boretto said.

Boretto, along with many others, views this as part of the ongoing problem of skilled labor in the US. Many industries are desperately in need of young new workers as their current workforce retires. But many manufacturing and skilled-labor industries, so-called blue collar jobs, are no longer attractive to the current generation of young people looking for work. There are a number of reasons for this, including a lack of vocational training schools and apprenticeship programs.

To this need at least, the industry is responding, but even so they are having trouble attracting younger people.

“Apprenticeship programs are increasing and recruiting heavily but it is hard to get young people now. They no longer understand the value and satisfaction of manual work. There is a marked valuation of white-collar jobs and college tracks over skilled labor or blue-collar jobs,” Boretto said.

In large part, this is due to the culture surrounding work and education. For Boretto, the construction industry offers many perks that are simply not available in these other fields.

“People have been so encouraged to go to college rather than consider the quality of life. There are lots of benefits to the construction industry that people don’t see; it’s not just hard labor. You can have a very satisfying job and be done by the early afternoon to go home to your family or even have a second job,” Boretto said.

This ability to partition life and work is something that many corporate and white-collar jobs cannot offer with their long hours and emphasis on mobile technology that makes it difficult to leave work at the office.

Ultimately Boretto sees this as the result of a cultural pressure to try to make money taking priority over quality of life and passion for work. The digital era has resulted in a generation of young people who are unfamiliar with the pronounced satisfaction and quality of life that comes with a skilled vocational job.


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