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Excerpted from Living with a Workforce Shortage by Jean Feingold

Construction is booming in the Carolinas and even more could be built if contractors had additional workers. But like other industries, construction is suffering from a serious workforce shortage. A recent AGC of America survey revealed 83% of contractors are having a tough time finding workers. WHERE ARE THE WORKERS? There has been a worker shortage in the construction industry for decades. This became more acute after “the great recession” in 2008 when a construction slump caused more than 2 million construction layoffs nationwide, explained Betsy Bailey, CAE, NC Government Relations and Building Division Director for Carolinas AGC.


“Vocational training programs are essential in providing training for construction workers,” said Bailey. “Contractors look to these programs for their future workers and some, like Martin Marietta, pay community colleges to offer heavy equipment operator programs they can recruit from.” The bigger challenge is getting students interested in construction as a career while they are young, Bailey noted. Many school guidance counselors steer good students toward college and fail to provide information about other careers not requiring degrees. While Crowder has not changed its recruiting methods, they are spending more time recruiting through visits to trade schools, colleges and universities. “We have increased our co-op and intern programs, for both office and field positions, so we have a pipeline of candidates we hope to start training early and have them return after completing their education,” Hansen said.


CAGC is actively involved in helping contractors find more workers. “CAGC has secured funding from the North Carolina legislature to help address our workforce shortage,” Bailey said. “Last year, the CAGC Foundation received $2.5 million, with $1.0 million going to community colleges to provide Construction Bootcamps. These bootcamps will recruit students from underrepresented populations — minorities, women, justice involved and veterans.” Students get free training through an 8-week accelerated construction 101 program with classroom instruction including work-based experience. On completion, students will be placed in a construction job or an apprenticeship or internship with a participating construction company. Another CAGC program is “Contractors in the Classroom.” This provides resources and support for members to visit classrooms to tell students about the many job opportunities in construction. “CAGC is also involved in the ‘Be Pro Be Proud’ workforce development program in both states,” Bailey said. This program provides funding to equip large, expandable tractor-trailers with learning lab simulators for construction activities. The North Carolina legislature just funded two trucks that will begin operating in Fall 2022. South Carolina’s truck, on the road since August 2020, has already made 243 stops and close to 20,000 students have toured it. Communicating a positive image of the industry to students in middle, high and vocational schools and with their parents is a valuable role for CAGC, Hansen said. “Most importantly, CAGC must continue legislative actions to keep construction dollars flowing on a consistent basis so workers are provided stable opportunities and careers here.”

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