Survey Shows 88% of Construction Firms are Having a Hard Time Filing Vacancies, Reveals Flaws in Nation's Approach to Preparing Workers for Construction Careers

Few candidates have the basic skills needed to work in high-paying construction careers, forcing short-staffed contractors to find new way to keep pace with demand and undermining efforts to build infrastructure and other projects, according to the results of the latest workforce survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America and Autodesk. The results highlight significant shortcomings in the nation’s approach to preparing workers for careers in construction. 

“The biggest takeaway from this year’s 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.”

Simonson noted that 85 percent of construction firms report they have open positions they are trying to fill. Among those firms, 88 percent are having trouble filling at least some of those positions – particularly among the craft workforce that performs the bulk of onsite construction work. 

All types of firms are experiencing these challenges. Largely similar results were reported by contractors that use exclusively union craft labor and by firms that operate as open-shop employers; by firms with $50 million or less in annual revenue and ones with more than $500 million in revenue; by companies in all four regions of the country; and by contractors doing building construction, highway and transportation projects, federal and heavy work, or utility infrastructure. 

One of the main reasons labor shortages are so severe, Simonson added, is that most job candidates are not qualified to work in the industry. He said a “shocking” 68 percent of firms report applicants lack the skills needed to work in construction. In addition, one-third of firms report candidates cannot pass a drug test. 

Workforce shortages are adding to the impacts of supply chain disruptions that have made it difficult for firms to get materials delivered on time and that are driving up the cost of those materials. While these shortages have recently shown signs of abating, 65 percent of firms report projects they work on have been delayed because of supply challenges and 61 percent have been delayed because of labor shortages.


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