Even as the economy has improved, job growth has remained sluggish in some sectors, but the home construction industry is an exception.
We spoke with Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati President Dan Dressman about growth in the industry, the hurdles it continues to leap and what’s being done to help foster further job opportunities.
Q: What has changed the most about the home construction in the last decade and what has that done for those looking for a job in the industry?
A: “Many young people are interested in technology-related careers. Construction, like most other businesses today have implemented technology into their job estimating, home energy efficiency specifications and plan and site designs to harness the efficiencies it provides. There’s more to home building today than just being able to swing a hammer. Although, there are many companies seeking both rough and finish carpenters too.”
Q: What’s job growth been like in the construction industry during the recession and when did it start to rebound and to what degree has it grown each year?
A: “It’s estimated that there will be 8 million new job openings in construction in the United States by 2018. Since 2015, there have been over 640,000 construction jobs created nationally. That equates to a growth rate of 25 percent over the last five years. Yet only 3 percent of high schoolers say that they plan to consider a construction career. There’s definitely a disconnect between what students are training for and job prospects. The construction career ladder is limitless.”
Q: How challenging is it for the home construction market to find both entry-level and experienced subs and employees and why?
A: “HBA members including builders, remodelers and subcontractors are all experiencing shortages, many severely so, in the residential construction workforce. There are numerous openings, that are going unfilled, in just about every area, from both entry-level, such as drywall installation, roofing, masonry, as well as carpenters, and licensed trades like plumbers, electricians, HVAC and more.
“There has been an even greater shortage this past spring as the housing market has accelerated. We are already seeing an extension of the time from home starts to finish, due to the labor shortage. It’s a national problem that began when large numbers of workers left housing-related jobs when the economic recession hit around 2008. Most have not come back due to other career opportunities or because of retirement.
“To compound the problem many younger people who traditionally landed construction jobs have been steered by parents and high school guidance counselors into other career paths. We have many fine construction trades training programs in our region, like Great Oaks, Butler Tech, and others, but there aren’t enough students in these programs to fill the vacuum. To add to the pipeline problem many temporary legal immigrant laborers have left the US and have not been able to return.”
Q: In what ways is HBA of Cincinnati working to help the home construction industry address the hiring challenges it faces?
A: “The HBA recently introduced its new online JobBank at CincyBuilders.com where member companies can post job openings and individuals can post resumes and search for jobs, all at no cost. There is a small charge for non-HBA companies who want to post openings. We are also making a more concerted effort to partner with the area high schools to promote careers in construction.
“There is no short term solution to this very large problem. Unfortunately, there is a misperception that construction job are a dead-end with low pay and no room for advancement. That is far from the truth. According to national research, entry-level jobs may start at $10 to $15 per hour, but an individual who gains experience can make upwards of $35 per hour. Job estimators can expect a salary of at least $50,000. Site superintendents can make between $50,000 and $90,000 per year. Company general managers are paid between $100,000 and $125,000. Skilled licensed trades persons are well-paid. On average electricians make $45,760 annually; plumbers $55,000 annually; and HVAC technicians $43,680 annually. Become a company owner and determine your own income.”