Lack of Skilled Builders Feared as Economy Lifts (USA Today)
CINCINNATI — Chris Fridel is an experienced electrician, loves his work, and loves to pitch jobs in the construction industry.
Last month, for the first time since the Great Recession, he actually had new jobs to talk about at a regional jobs fair.
But he’s worried. So few young people entered apprenticeship programs during the economic downturn that he and other recruiters fear the building trades could run short of skilled workers.
“When the economy picks up, we’ll have this big hole,” he said.
The implications are huge: A full economic rebound won’t be possible without a robust comeback in the construction industry.
New home construction leads to spending on furniture, lawn equipment, appliances and residential upkeep. Commercial construction leads to new retail and entertainment venues. And construction jobs tend to pay well, giving those workers the ability and confidence to spend money on their own homes, fueling the economy more.
But restocking the talent pool can’t be done overnight. Apprentices need three to five years of classwork and on-the-job training to become the expert masons, electricians, iron workers, insulators and painters needed to build a house or a skyscraper.
Younger workers, too, have more options than a decade ago. As service industries have become a bigger part of the nation’s economy, workers can choose from more jobs that don’t involve strenuous physical labor and long hours outdoors.
“There’s definitely a need for people,” said President Pete Chronis of Reece-Campbell Inc., a Cincinnati construction company. Many of the contractors he works with are worried about having enough skilled laborers in the training pipeline.
“There’s a certain amount of ruggedness required,” he said. “We need to glamorize working with your hands.”
See Canadian imports Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection, and Holmes Makes It Right; Scott McGillivray of Income Property; and Jonathan Scott of Property Brothers along with the supporting cast of many other HGTV and DIY Network shows and perhaps the original reality-show tradesman, Massachusetts carpenter Norm Abram of PBS’ This Old House.
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