NRCA Addresses Causes of Construction Industry Labor Shortage

On July 17, CNBC published an article addressing the housing market and noted that despite the fact there is a growing demand for new construction homes, the ongoing labor shortage in the construction market is slowing the amount of new homes being constructed each year. The article can be read in its entirety below.

A rebound in construction activity, including roofing, is occurring nationwide. Most construction trades are having difficulty attracting experienced workers and qualified entry-level workers. NRCA believes this is attributable to a number of factors:

  • During the recent downturn, many workers left the industry to find other jobs and simply haven’t returned.
  • With the national immigration policy in a state of disarray, it is virtually impossible for roofing contractors to get skilled workers through legal immigration channels. Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been conducting raids on legitimate employers – scaring off legal immigrant workers.
  • High schools are given incentives to send students to college – even at a time when 35 percent of college freshman drop out. Many high schools have abandoned vocational training in the drive to get everyone to college, including those who would be better served pursuing a career in the trades.
  • Despite the fact that the starting wage for a construction job is typically two to three times the federal minimum wage, construction jobs are seen as unappealing. In the roofing industry, there is a great deal of opportunity for advancement and career growth; however, this is not widely known to the general public.

In addition, there is a demographic problem—the U.S. population is getting older. On average, the construction jobs that used to go to 18-22 year olds are now going to older people. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers reports the average age of a roofing apprentice is 29. NRCA also knows the rate of accident and injury for roofing workers increases with age; those over 45 years of age are much more inclined to suffer musculoskeletal injuries.

Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 53 percent of roofing workers are Hispanic, which suggests the industry needs to do more to attract, train and integrate Hispanic workers into the industry.

NRCA has developed several initiatives designed to attract more workers to the roofing industry. It has partnered with the Department of Defense’s Hero 2 Hired initiative in an effort to show the unemployed veterans the many career opportunities that exist in roofing.

In addition, NRCA and The Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress partnered with three four-year universities by awarding scholarships to faculty members from their construction management departments to integrate roofing materials into their curricula. For more information, visit www.roofingindustryalliance.net/Construction-Management.

NRCA also has expanded several of its educational offerings to be taught in Spanish to address the needs of the growing Hispanic demographic in the roofing industry. To view NRCA’s offerings in Spanish, visit www.nrca.net/store/category/Spanishlanguageprograms/8.

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