This may come as a big surprise: The U.S. commercial construction sector is facing a shortage of skilled workers.
After a period of steep decline in commercial construction stemming from the 2008 financial crisis — forcing mass layoffs throughout the industry — that seems like an absurd notion. But activity is picking back up.
By 2015, non-residential construction is projected to grow 73 percent compared to 2011, increasing demand for skilled workers.
With nearly half of all nonresidential activity by 2015 set to be “green,” workers with experience in energy efficiency, water efficiency, responsible site management, air quality, and green building certification will be the highest in demand. That’s according to a survey of industry companies conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction.
The boom in the green building space is good news. But will there be enough people to fulfill market needs?
The McGraw-Hill survey shows that companies fear a shortage of potential employees with in-demand skills over the coming years. The shortage will be caused by three main factors: A wave of retiring baby boomers; a decline in workers with experience due to mass layoffs after the recession; and a thinning pipeline of students.
More than 85 percent of engineering & design firms, and more than 90 percent of general contractors say it will be difficult to find skilled employees to meet the boom in demand for green projects. In October, McGraw-Hill reported that 35 percent of workers have green jobs in the sector; by 2014, 45 percent will have green jobs.
In order to find employees with new skills, meet demand for greener buildings, and make their businesses more competitive, McGraw-Hill urges companies to start building a plan immediately:
If an organization does not already have a green strategy, it needs to develop one. With green projects and green jobs already accounting for one third of the market and still growing, in order to stay competitive, all involved in the industry need to their approach to green, including finding green skilled workers, capitalizing on existing green enterprise and their internal green experts and emphasizing additional green training.
The companies surveyed agreed. According to McGraw-Hill, 71 percent of firms say having certified/accredited employees help increase competitiveness; 68 percent say having green certified employees will help them expand business.
In January, the Obama Administration came under fire because green jobs training programs supported by the stimulus were not placing workers at expected rates. Those criticisms were based upon a flawed report from the Inspector General that didn’t take into account “incumbent” workers or people currently in training programs.
Those problems aside, many of the worker placement programs didn’t ramp up like many supporters hoped. But this industry survey shows why a commitment to green workforce training is so important.