Sunday, June 10, 2018

Site Built Housing Contractors Facing Major Labor Problems

A skilled labor shortage is forcing housing contractors to go to unusual lengths to make up for the absence of workers. This, in some cases, is leading to foregone revenue and sales, as not enough people can be found to fill open positions to help meet the demand for houses.

There are now more jobs available in the U.S. than there are people unemployed, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Labor. And the imbalance is particularly dire in the housing industry where even during economic downturns unemployment historically has run low.

One Midwestern site builder said he’s currently paying typical overtime wages for the first 40 hours to most of his 40 employees to make up for the lack of available workers, but even that is not enough.

“Today I was out unloading a truck,” he said. “Not that it’s beneath me, but there are better things I could be doing with my time.”

Construction companies say it’s hard to find people who are qualified to work in non-skilled labor positions and many are partnering with schools to try to build interest with kids. With the manufacturing sector on the rise, fewer people are going into the skilled construction fields.

“We do not have enough employees to hire that actually have working knowledge of how to build things, how to pour concrete, how to run equipment, and different things like that,” said one southern home builder. “We have applicants come in every day, but they don’t know how to do anything with their hands, and so we end up hiring people that we have to train before they actually become beneficial members of our crews.”

But there’s another problem facing the current construction workforce. Employees that have been on the job thirty to forty years. They’re getting older, and they’re getting ready to retire and replacing them is getting next to impossible.

Although students typically show interest in the trades during their high school years, that can change once they graduate. Working with their hands out in the weather year round is not what they want to do the rest of their lives.

“We, the parents, have been telling our children that doing manual labor is something beneath their ability” said a NJ site builder. “Now we have a generation that looks down on anyone that works with their hands. At the same time, we the parents, are seeing our children struggling to repay student loans, get married, buy houses and new cars while those kids that are actually working with their hands are making $50,000 a year and more.”

The labor shortage problem is not unique to site built housing. Every industry is facing an increasing demand to hire employees.

I’ve even heard some builders are reaching out to retirees, offering them 20-24 hours a week to do many non-hands on jobs at the construction sites such a driving for materials, meeting with code inspection people, office work and even as job foreman. These retirees are being paid enough an hour to make it quite worthwhile to forego their social security for a couple of years.


Nature Boy said...

Meet this very historical problem head-on: organize builder training, screen applicants by reading, language skills and level of experience; create skills with on the job work; support licensing education programs; hire apprentices from military personnel separating from service; offer advancement to all trainees who are consistently on time and prepared; match pay with skills and advancement in programs; build small vertical work teams with similar components: job leaders, trainees and new hires; help certify worker skills and provide referrals to companies seeking to grow with new employees; offer rewards to trainee referrals and make payment to referrals upon "graduation"; seek funding from all public and private grant sources and apply the funding only to trainees interests; track outgoing trainees and stipulate their services in training others. Not everyone wants to code, but everyone wants to build. Modular has benefits, workers are still needed in any technology.

Anonymous said...

There isn't a labor shortage. It's a salary issue. When wages increase, those voids will be filled. In order to do that the government needs to implement E-Verify. With 41 million illegal aliens here in the United States, salaries are being undermined. The Chamber of Commerce controls both Houses. And they are opposed to any increases in wages and will fight to keep cheap unskilled labor abundant. Until E-Verify is implemented American wages will continue to remain below a living wage and jobs will remain unfilled.

Josh Margulies said...

You work for the Government dont you? Education?