May 19, 2016

Aging workforce, lack of skilled workers leads to worker shortage in construction

A "perfect storm" has led to a shortage of skilled workers in Maine's construction industry, forcing some contractors in the state to turn down projects that are popping up following the strengthening Maine economy.

"A local electrician is so busy he has actually taken the signs, the advertising, off the sides of his van because the workload is so much right now," Matthew Marks, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Maine, told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. "So, it's a good problem to have, but as we recover you see that perfect storm coming."

The "perfect storm" Marks is alluding to includes the loss of skilled construction workers, many of whom moved out of state during the great recession to find work elsewhere — and of course, the rising age of Maine's population makes the search for trained employees even more difficult, according to MPBN.

To counteract the shortage of workers and the aging workforce, Marks said that he regularly visits high schools to highlight the positives that a career in construction could have, a point he highlighted in an interview with Mainebiz in February.

"We started speaking to high school guidance counselors in December," Marks told Mainebiz. "We've talked about Maine's population trends, the fact that 18% of our workforce is over the age of 55. So, if we take that, plus the 7,000 jobs lost since peak, we're looking at an increase of 11,510 jobs that we have to hit in the next five years to meet the projected needs."

In addition to being a hot commodity as a skilled worker, average pay is roughly $45,000 a year, which only increases as a worker picks up more skills, including welding and operating heavy equipment, Marks told MPBN.

"There are plenty of certificate programs — the welding certificate program, the heavy equipment operator," Marks told MPBN. "In southern Maine, in particular, we are seeing that firms need equipment operators."

Read more

Recruitment a top priority for Associated General Contractors of Maine


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