Based upon a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, nonresidential construction in the U.S. rose 17% to $346.6 billion in the month of June. According to the report, hotels, educational institutions, office buildings, and utilities led the commercial construction push. There was so much commercial construction this summer that concrete contractors in cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas were not affected by the slowdown evident in the residential markets for those areas.
Despite the positive numbers in these areas of the country, there is one issue that is likely to become more pressing over time—the lack of skilled workers.
There is certainly a huge amount of skilled workers in the concrete industry, and each of them do their job very well. However, there are some regions of the country where the supply of skilled workers is far below the demand necessitated by new concrete construction projects and the future looks even more discerning.
One East Coast contractor who has had a hard time finding quality workers says that local high schools are offering less vocational training as families are pushing children toward professional desk jobs. The mentality being that worthwhile and lucrative careers can only be found in technology-driven, higher-education fields.
I heard another story involving a shortage of concrete workers from a contractor located in the south. He also says that the pool of talented, skilled labor continues to shrink despite efforts by local schools to push students toward vocational training.
And it is not just the concrete industry that is experiencing a shortage of workers—all trades, from electricians to mechanics to crane operators, are in the same boat.
The question I have is where is the concrete industry going to find the next generation of workers? Fortunately, recruitment starts with you. Talk with your kids, talk to their friends. Spread the word about the benefits of working in the concrete industry—job security, great pay, full insurance. Let them know they can ensure a future by becoming a concrete finisher or ready-mix truck driver. Management and technical training in the concrete industry is available as well. One example at the collegiate level is the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program offered at four universities around the country. This excellent management program helps students meet the ever-changing demands of the concrete industry and often results in a permanent position in the industry shortly after graduation.
The next generation of workers should understand immediately that it is a smart decision to invest in a career in this industry.
Similarly, in preparing for the future of the concrete industry, we have made the first of many changes to our Web site, www.concreteconstruction.net, in order to provide you with the tools you need to succeed in this changing industry.
Concrete Construction editors and Hanley Wood's IT personnel began by rebuilding the foundation of the Web site. To do this, we focused on enhancing the organization of the site; making navigation much easier for you. If you go to the site, you may notice these changes, including updated pages and features as well as access to more news, editorial content, and special projects.
By laying this groundwork, we will be able to provide you with an entirely new Web site featuring many new facets that can be expected over time. With this, we also hope to evolve our relationship with you the reader, and open the electronic door of communication to better serve you and your needs.
Editor in Chief