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The Craft Labor Supply and Demand Symposium: Connecting the Dots

June 23 2008

Over 100 industry professionals from the contractor, owner, and labor communities met in Merrillville, Indiana on June 19th for the Construction Advancement Foundation’s Craft Labor Supply & Demand Symposium. TAUC President, Robert Hoover of Aker Construction, Inc. and TAUC CEO, Stephen Lindauer were on hand at the symposium to sit on its panel and offer their expertise to the issues that were covered. The symposium was moderated by Jim Bain of Falcon Advisors.

The symposium began with a question to the panel regarding a lack of trained field labor as the single largest issue to overcome in the next five years. While the panel agreed that this is certainly an issue, they warned that the industry must also focus on retaining adequate supervision on projects. Looking at the role that minorities and women play in our industry, the panelists were also quick to point out that recruiting both groups is as important as ever.

Asked how long the issue of manpower shortage will persist, the panel noted that the numbers for projected manpower are just now coming out. Only after the owners, contractors and trades are given an opportunity to plan projects will they then be able to forecast how long this shortage will remain. The panelists then pointed out that this shortage will continue to directly impact productivity, the quality of the product, potential for growth for the contractor, profit margins and jobsite safety.

After the moderator cited the industry’s image, career and educational trends, and changing demographics as the most common causes for the labor shortage the panelists commented that our industry’s recruitment and retention efforts are facing generational challenges as well. Retaining older tradesmen is becoming harder and the younger generation is “not connecting the dots with a career in construction” said TAUC CEO Stephen Lindauer. A generation ago our education system used to employ building trade programs, now guidance counselors are encouraging our students to stay away from the industry or not even mentioning the opportunities that are available in many instances. “Many young people do not understand that many of the executives of top performing contractors, jobsite superintendents, and union executives in our industry were once field boilermakers, ironworkers, carpenters and the like, there is a disconnect and it is our duty to close this gap ” stated TAUC President, Robert Hoover.

As the symposium in Northwest Indiana drew to a close, it was found that while this event focused primarily on the state of union construction in Northwest Indiana, the topics, discussions and action items would apply to the industry as a whole.

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