Skilled Worker Shortage

New York - The construction industry is concerned about skilled worker shortages, according to a new SmartMarket Report from McGraw-Hill Construction entitled "Construction Industry Workforce Shortages: Role of Certification, Training and Green Jobs in Filling the Gaps." It is the first study to focus exclusively on design and construction professionals and trade workers. Skilled workers have left the industry as a result of the economic downturn, an aging workforce and an insufficient pipeline of younger workers, according to the new study released at the AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition in Washington, DC.

The study shows that 69 percent of architect, engineer, and contractor professionals expect skilled workforce shortages in next three years; 32 percent of AEC are concerned about a shortage of specialty trade contractors by 2014; 49 percent of the general contractors are concerned about finding skilled craft workers by 2017, and 37 percent of architect and engineering firms are concerned about finding experienced workers. Skilled green workers are in even more demand; 86 percent of architects and engineers and 91 percent of contractors are finding too few green skilled employees.

Facing the loss of employees in the construction professions, industry professionals are worried they may have lost those skills, and uncertainty about interest by the next generation raises concerns about being able to fill gaps in the future. In a separate but related survey McGraw-Hill Constructiononducted for the American Institute of Architects, 79 percent of architecture firms are not sure the U.S. student pipeline will be sufficient to replace those leaving the profession, a problem exacerbated by the 76 percent of U.S. architecture students/recent graduates who would consider working abroad.

"The downturn in construction activity may be masking a serious problem in the construction industry workforce," says Harvey Bernstein, vice president, Industry Insights and Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction. "But the rise of green jobs and more availability of training and professional certifications can help to attract interest in the professions and make firms more competitive."

Green jobs, in particular, represent a transformational shift in the construction industry. McGraw-Hill Construction found that 35 percent of architects, engineers and contractors report having green jobs today, representing nearly 650,000 jobs. That share is expected to increase over the next three years, with 45 percent of all design and construction jobs being green by 2014.

McGraw-Hill Construction defines "green jobs" as those involving more than 50 percent of work on green projects (defined by McGraw-Hill Construction as projects meeting LEED or another credible green building certification program, or one that is energy- and water-efficient and also addresses indoor air quality and/or resource efficiency) or designing and installing uniquely green systems. Focusing on the construction professions exclusively, this definition excludes support or administrative professionals and manufacturing, production or transportation-related services.

This growth of green may help draw more young professionals into the industry. For example, the study also reveals that 62 percent of trade firms are concerned their profession does not appeal to the younger generation and 42 percent of architects report the same. However, the younger generation reports a strong commitment to sustainability, with 63 percent of architecture students saying they would engage in sustainable design out of a personal responsibility. This suggests that as green rises, so too may interest by young professionals in the design and construction fields of practice.

"Green buildings are a clear-cut smart investment in the current economic climate because they create financial returns, have environmental benefits and positively impact job creation. USGBC is excited to be releasing this new report with McGraw Hill Construction and the AIA that directly addresses these findings," says Roger Platt, senior vice president of global policy and law at USGBC. "Job creation and economic stability are crucial to supporting resilient and strong communities, and green buildings support the jobs of the future."

The survey also demonstrates that by requiring professional certifications of employees for different skills, firms are more apt to maintain a competitive advantage while also benefiting individual workers. Seventy-one percent of firms find that having certified employees increases the competitiveness of their firms to win contracts; 68 percent believe certified employees help them grow their green business; 77 percent of individuals feel certification helps them gain valuable knowledge they can use on the job, and 75 percent believe it brings them more job opportunities, which are key in this time of high unemployment.

"These findings should serve as a huge wakeup call for the entire design and construction industry," says AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer, Robert Ivy, FAIA. "But they also present an opportunity to showcase the tremendous opportunity for architecture students and emerging professionals since there will be such a heavy demand for architects in the coming years."