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News Sept. 20, 2023

Survey highlights construction firms' workforce challenges

The Associated General Contractors of America said a recent workforce survey it conducted with Autodesk of more than 1,400 construction firms shows few candidates have the basic skills needed to work in high-paying construction careers, forcing contractors to find new ways to keep pace with demand.

“The biggest takeaway from this year’s Workforce Survey is how much the nation is failing to prepare future workers for high-paying careers in fields like construction,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “It is time to rethink the way the nation educates and prepares workers.”

Eighty-five percent of construction firms surveyed report they have open positions, and 88% of those firms are struggling to fill some of those positions—especially among the craft workforce that performs most on-site construction work.

All types and sizes of construction firms are experiencing these challenges. Simonson said the labor shortage is so severe because most job candidates are not qualified to work in the industry. Sixty-eight percent of firms report applicants lack the skills needed to work in construction, and one-third of firms report candidates cannot pass a drug test.

Workforce shortages reportedly also are contributing to the effects of supply chain disruptions, such as delayed materials and higher prices. Sixty-five percent of firms report their projects have been delayed because of supply challenges and 61% have been delayed because of labor shortages. Half the survey respondents report owners canceled, postponed or scaled back projects because of increasing costs.

To combat labor shortages, 81% percent of firms have raised base pay rates for their workers during the past year, 44% are providing incentives and bonuses and 26% have also improved their benefits packages. Additionally, 63% of survey respondents—compared with 39% in the 2022 survey—report they are using online strategies such as social media or digital advertising to recruit workers.

Contractors have ramped up training to address candidates’ lack of skills, with 41% of firms boosting spending on training and professional development programs, 25% enhancing their online and video training capabilities and 14% using augmented and virtual reality technology to better train workers.

Survey results show technology has become more crucial in combatting the labor shortage. Seventy-five percent of respondents say using cutting-edge technology helps them recruit talent, and 91% agree their employees must have digital technology skills.

Additionally, 44% of respondents say artificial intelligence and robotics will positively affect construction costs by automating manual, error-prone tasks. Forty-one percent say AI and robotics will improve the quality of construction jobs and make workers safer and more productive.


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