Skills gap in construction continues to widen

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Posted at 3:53 PM, May 13, 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Business at Brickyard Building Materials is booming.

More home and garden projects that people started during the pandemic have led to an increase in demand for the stone and brickwork the business supplies.

In addition to keeping up with supplies, the company needs to bolster a strong workforce.

"Help is hard to find. Good help is hard to find," said Rick Yates, sales manager at Brickyard Building Materials.

"The new applications that we're getting are, most of them have very little experience in our industry," Yates added.

Yates is experiencing what many businesses across the country are dealing with— the skills gap.

According to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 88% of contractors and manufacturers report having moderate to high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and 35% say they’ve had to turn down jobs because of it.

Industry sourcing platform Thomas Net predicts this gap will leave 1.2 million jobs going unfilled by 2030, potentially costing the economy $1 trillion. Without these jobs filled, Thomas Net predicts the infrastructure bill could make this situation worse

"Our average craft worker is somewhere between 42 and 45 years old right now, which is not a sustainable craft or industry," said Peter Tateishi, CEO of the Association of General Contractors of California.

Tateishi says this is an issue they’ve been trying to tackle for years. They’ve spent over $1 million to get social media savvy, trying to meet the younger generations of potential workers.

"We're on Instagram, we're on TikTok. We're in the places where they are— YouTube, Twitter. We actually then are targeting their influencers, their parents, and their teachers and career counselors on Facebook," he said.

Kevin Brown, director of the pre-apprenticeship program for the Sacramento Sierra Building Trades, trains women, former prisoners, veterans and unhoused people in skilled construction jobs.

"My focus is more about human capital sourcing. That's the infrastructure that we as a country have to focus on," he said.

A pastor by day, he sees training as an opportunity to show potential workers the benefits these jobs bring, without the need for a traditional degree.

"If you created a space of neutrality and adequately prepare and equip these candidates, they will perform right accordingly," he said, "We can be more intentional in our sourcing and focus on investing in human capital."

Yates shares the same hopes as Brown: More training and recruitment. Above all else, they'd like others to experience the career that he’s gotten so much satisfaction from over the last three decades.

"This company has taken real good care of me, so I've got to make sure when I leave here that this store's covered," Yates said.