As Construction Picks Up and Workforce Ages, Contractors See Skilled Labor Shortage

By on October 9, 2017

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  After weathering the recession, the construction industry is facing the opposite problem of a decade ago. There’s work, but not enough people ready to do it.

“To parents, to young people, please think about construction as a serious career choice,” Len Toenjes, president of the Associated General Contractors of Missouri, implored listeners at an event held Tuesday at North Technical High School just outside Florissant.

His plea came after the release of a survey of 41 contractors conducted by his organization that found 71 percent of them struggled to find enough skilled workers for job sites.

Contractors and labor representatives had gathered to highlight the challenge of recruiting new skilled workers. They pointed to resources such as North Tech that help train students for careers in construction and other trades.

The construction industry’s concern comes despite wages that tend to run higher than the average. And there’s a good amount of work, with new offices and apartments under construction in west St. Louis County, Clayton and into the central corridor of St. Louis. Warehouses and logistics centers are being built in Hazelwood, Fenton and the Metro East. New homes keep going up in St. Charles County.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who made a brief appearance at the event, called the construction going on in St. Louis County a “boom.”

“Without trained construction workers, this boom might just stall,” he said.

The construction industry’s problem isn’t unique. As the official unemployment rate has fallen in recent years, employers in other industries, too, have struggled to find skilled workers.

Construction, like manufacturing, has become more technical and requires more training.

“The days of stumbling onto a job site with a broom are over,” Toenjes said.

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