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Workforce Woes: Vocational and Technical Programs Could Help Address Labor Shortage

Support for vocational and technical programs that funnel new workers into the construction industry could help correct the worsening labor shortage.

The labor shortage in the construction industry has gotten so dire, many companies are turning down lucrative jobs because they simply can't muster the skilled workers needed to complete them. Carpenters, project managers and supervisors are the hardest positions to fill right now, and firms are also having trouble finding qualified laborers, electricians, plumbers, ironworkers and estimators. The shortages are having an impact on construction salaries, as well, with 70% of firms responding to a recent study by the Associated General Contractors stating that they're paying more for skilled labor than ever before.

While the shortage has largely been caused by cyclical factors - including slow recovery from the recession - there's also the cultural trend pushing graduating high school students into college instead of vocational and technical programs. These programs once acted as a pipeline maintaining a steady flow of skilled workers into the construction industry. Because funding for these programs has decreased over the years, students who once would have gained skills in various trades are encouraged to pursue other fields.

Helping students, parents and educators learn the value of trade work is a crucial element to maintaining a quality field of applicants. Trades with high labor demands, like plumbers, electricians and equipment operators, can become active in high schools or partner with local colleges to encourage students to check out their options and see what these fields have to offer.

Some noteworthy programs allow high school students to enroll in free public community college career and technical programs for credit toward their high school diplomas. These programs paired with awareness campaigns, like Georgia's Go Build Initiative, could be what it takes to reinvigorate interest in skilled trades among students from all walks of life.

United Rentals offers practical, hands-on Operator Training courses in the safe operation of heavy-duty equipment, including aerial boomlift operator certification and skid steer loader operator certification. Learn more at United Academy.