There are numerous factors that contribute to the ongoing skilled labor crisis in construction including the lingering impact of the recession, the difficulty in attracting younger workers, and the restrictions placed on employment of those with felony convictions. Although there may not be a singular solution for the labor shortage, there are some promising changes that could help to ease the scarcity of skilled workers. For instance, a growing number of commercial construction recruiters are encouraging more employers to “ban the box” on job applications that inquire about conviction his-tory and discourages people from applying and adopt fair-chance policies.
Removing Job Barriers Could Help Solve the Skilled Labor Crisis
It’s not uncommon for individuals that have criminal records to struggle in their efforts to find jobs upon being released from prison due to the negative stigma. Yet it’s not fair to punish those that have served their time and are reentering society by excluding them from construction jobs. Even though there will always be exceptions to the rule, many people with records simply desire a second chance to become productive members of society.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) reported that there are some 70 million U.S. adults with arrests or convictions, many of whom are turned away from jobs de-spite their skills and qualifications. Banning the box would enable employers to judge many applicants on their qualifications first, without the shame of a record. If more employers would make individualized assessments and consider the age and nature of the offense and its relevance to the job, then the skilled labor pool could grow exponentially. Starbucks, Facebook, Koch Industries, Target and Walmart are just a few of the major employers that have enacted for-chance polices for prospective applicants.
The Lingering Impact of the Recession
The labor market is still recovering from the impacts of the recession that sent unemployment soaring to 26%. Millions of workers left the construction industry altogether during the recession resulting in the loss of over 2.3 million construction professionals between April of 2006 and January of 2011. Construction careers became a risk that many skilled workers simply did not want to take. So, the industry lost much of the young talent required to ensure a steady flow of innovation. These were also challenging years for the trade schools who train the next generation of skilled laborers. Now, US construction spending is reaching historic levels again, and firms are left trying to attract skilled candidates that otherwise might not even be looking for jobs to fill the construction careers left vacant.
Next Generation of Workers
Attracting future generations of workers to the construction industry is essential to helping solve the skilled labor crisis. Industry experts are working harder to promote the value of trade schools to students versus attending traditional universities. Then, there are also a variety of other short-term programs being used around the country to get under- and unemployed people trained very quickly. One example is the four-week boot camp program called Westside Works founded by The Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA). Additional long-term strategies include federal boosts for job training. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that supports expanding apprenticeships and improving job-training programs.
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