It is time for a labor movement and it needs to start now.
It’s a crisis that’s been building over the last decade. Construction activity is on the rise, but there is a shrinking pool of skilled workers to complete the work.
Today, there is a national shortage of almost 2 million construction workers. At this rate, the shortage will reach 10 million by 2027.
Most skilled-construction professionals are nearing the age of retirement and they are not being replaced by an equal or greater number of young, talented workers.
Why is this occurring?
Most secondary educational institutions are rewarded for their ability to place students into a four-year college degree program. The skilled trades are considered an alternative, rather than a first choice.
In recent years, many college graduates have entered the workforce only to find they have significant student loan debt and no opportunity to use their education.
Conversely, those students who enter into a four-year vocational degree program had the ability to immediately enter into the middle class without the burden of student loans.
MORE EDUCATION LATER
Becoming a skilled tradesperson does not preclude workers from additional business education.
Quite the opposite; many of the most successful construction owners started in the field, learned the business from the ground up and then added the business acumen to build their own companies.
This is often overlooked, because it is not promoted or talked about.
INCENTIVES FOR PLACING STUDENTS
This labor movement goes beyond labor affiliation or political party lines.
It will take legislative effort to create an environment for free enterprise businesses to flourish while simultaneously changing old paradigms about the construction industry.
Incentives need to be established to reward schools that test and correctly place students into construction programs, instead of deferring to four-year college degree programs.
The business community must promote the trades as a viable career path and assure there is a robust industry for students to enter.
It is time today to start this movement today and reverse the workforce shortage trend. This is important not only for the region, but for the nation.
Joe Perpiglia is president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter (www.abceastpa.org), Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and East Norriton, which represents more than 14,000 merit construction employees who work for nearly 450 member companies. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC nationally is comprised of 70 chapters representing nearly 21,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms with nearly two million employees. He can be reached at [email protected] or 610-821-9686 and 610-279-6666.