The Rochester metro area was the nation’s third fastest growing construction job market during the past 12 months, according to an analysis released by the Associated General Contractors of America today. As local construction firms expand their payrolls, the national association and its local chapter, however, are taking steps to prepare the next generation of construction workers amid significant construction worker shortages.
“As demand for construction grows here and in many other parts of the country, more firms are having a difficult time finding enough qualified workers,” said Brian Turmail, the national spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America. “That is significant, because workforce shortages have the potential to undermine broader economic growth by, among other impacts, slowing construction schedules.”
Turmail noted that the Rochester metro area added 3,000 new construction jobs between December 2018 and December 2019, a 15 percent increase. He added that the area was the third fastest growing construction job market among the 358 metro areas the association tracks. There are 23,500 people working in construction in the Rochester area today, up from 16,500 in December 2009.
The association spokesman said the Rochester area was not alone when it comes to adding construction jobs. Nationwide, 211 out of 358 metro areas added construction jobs during the past year, including the Albany area. But Turmail cautioned that the 2020 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook the association released found that 91 percent of New York contractors, and 81 percent of contractors nationwide, report having a hard time finding qualified workers.
Turmail noted that, although construction is expanding in most parts of the country, firms are having difficulty filling positions because many older workers are retiring and too few young adults are considering high-paying careers in construction. One reason, he said, is that public investments in career and technical education have declined significantly in recent decades. That is why the association released its Workforce Development Plan that outlines a series of steps federal officials should take to make it easier to establish construction training programs, he added.
The plan calls for doubling federal funding for career and technical education programs over the next five years. It also calls on federal officials to evaluate schools based on how many students graduate into high-paying jobs like those available in construction, in addition to how many enter college. And it backs measures like the Jobs Act, which makes it easier for construction students to qualify for federal Pell Grants.
Turmail added that the association, its chapters and many of its members are also working to recruit more young adults in the construction industry. And he noted that the association’s local chapter, the AGC of New York State, is taking a range of additional steps to address workforce shortages.