Training and Education to Reverse Labor Shortage

The two-year recession that began in late 2007 resulted in almost 30 million Americans losing their jobs. During this time, there was a huge decrease in the need for labor in the construction industry with nearly 2 million construction workers laid off between 2007 and 2009. Many of the laid-off construction workers turned to other promising industries or retired altogether, and most of them did not return once the economy bounced back in 2010 out of fear of once again losing their steady income. Needless to say, this has left the construction industry with a labor shortage dilemma.

The most powerful tool that will reverse this shortage in construction labor and empower workers to return to the industry is, quite simply, education. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC of America) has reported that 83 percent of contractors struggle to find sufficient skilled labor. Advocating for technical schools and holistic programs will assist construction companies in the efforts to find exceptional, well-trained employees.

Steps have been put in motion on a national level in order to prevent further decline in the economy that may be caused by a lack of skilled construction workers. Legislative action was taken in 2014 in relation to workforce development through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This act of Congress increased the focus on serving more vulnerable workers, such as those with a limited work experience, as well as aided disadvantaged and unemployed adults and youth earn while they learn through support services and efficient employment-based activities.

The Associated Builders and Contractors reported the WIOA to be a huge step in fighting the labor shortage as it ensured that local stakeholders would be involved in the shaping of job training efforts. The WIOA’s $9.5 billion allocated to training funds means construction companies can get reimbursed for on-the-job training, become a training provider without needing to qualify at the local level and offer an alternative to a competitive grant by paying companies through a training account on a per-trainee basis. This piece of legislation emphasizes effective workforce training.

Education is the best, and most foundational, tool to solving the labor shortage dilemma. It’s the only thing that will put our 2 million workers back to work in secure positions. Moving forward, local stakeholders should follow the WIOA’s lead in making training and education an easily accessible step for workers in construction and for those looking to make it as a long-time career.

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