AGC Special Report on Difficulties FINDING QUALIFIED CRAFT WORKERS TO HIRE AMID GROWING CONSTRUCTION DEMAND

SEVENTY-PERCENT OF CONTRACTORS HAVE A HARD TIME FINDING QUALIFIED CRAFT WORKERS TO HIRE AMID GROWING CONSTRUCTION DEMAND, NATIONAL SURVEY FINDS

Labor ShortagesChronic Labor Shortages are Changing the Way Many Firms Operate, Recruit and Compensate Workers, but Long-Term Economic Impacts Could Be Severe Without New Workforce Measures, Officials Caution

Seventy percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce, according to the results of an industry-wide survey released today by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said that many firms are changing the way they operate, recruit and compensate, but cautioned that chronic labor shortages could have significant economic impacts absent greater investments in career and technical education.

“In the short-term, fewer firms will be able to bid on construction projects if they are concerned they will not have enough workers to meet demand,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer for the Associated General Contractors.  “Over the long-term, either construction firms will find a way to do more with fewer workers or public officials will take steps to encourage more people to pursue careers in construction.”

Of the more than 1,600 survey respondents, 70 percent said they are having difficulty filling hourly craft positions, Sandherr noted. Craft worker shortages are the most severe in the West, where 75 percent of contractors are having a hard time filling those positions, followed by the Midwest where 72 percent are having a hard time finding craft workers, 70 percent in the South and 63 percent in the Northeast.

The labor shortages come as demand for construction continues to grow.  Sandherr noted that construction employment expanded in 258 out of 358 metro areas that the association tracks between July 2016 and July 2017, according to a new analysis of federal construction employment data the association also released today. Growing demand for construction workers helps explain why 67 percent of firms report it will continue to be hard, or get harder, to find hourly craft workers this year.

Tight labor market conditions are prompting firms to change the way they operate, recruit and compensate workers, Sandherr noted.  Most firms report they are making a special effort to recruit and retain veterans (79 percent); women (70 percent) and African Americans (64 percent).  Meanwhile, half of construction firms report increasing base pay rates for craft workers because of the difficulty in filling positions.  Twenty percent have improved employee benefits for craft workers and 24 percent report they are providing incentives and bonuses to attract workers.

Forty-six percent of firms also report they are doing more in-house training to cope with workforce shortages while 47 percent report they are increasing overtime hours and 41 percent are increasing their use of subcontractors.  In addition, 22 percent report they are increasing their use of labor-saving equipment, 11 percent are using off-site prefabrication and 7 percent are using virtual construction methods like Building Information Modeling, or BIM for short.

“The ongoing labor drought continues to put pressure on the already high-risk, low-margin construction industry,” said Sarah Hodges, director of the construction business line at Autodesk, a leading 3D design, engineering, and construction software firm. “As labor challenges continue to grow, technology will play an increasingly important role supporting the existing workforce while inspiring the next generation of industry professionals.”

Sandherr called on federal, state and local officials to act on the measures in the association’s Workforce Development Plan to address the growing worker shortages. In particular, he urged the Senate to pass legislation to reform and increase funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

The survey was conducted in July and early August. Click here to see the national survey results, analysis of the data and regional and state-by-state results. Click here for the July 2017 metro construction employment data.

ABC Praises Trump Administration Regulatory Rollbacks in SBA Testimony

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today praised the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back burdensome regulations that drive up construction costs and hold back small business hiring and expansion.

Testifying at the 2017 National Regulatory Fairness Hearing at the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of the National Ombudsman on Aug. 28, ABC General Counsel Maury Baskin Esq. of Littler Mendelson P.C. urged action on the “persuader,” over time and silica rules, the new “joint employer” standard, and other onerous rulemakings and policies.

“For the construction industry, unjustified and unnecessary regulations translate to higher costs, which are then passed along to the consumer or lead to construction projects being unaffordable,” Baskin said. “ABC member contractors are encouraged by the Trump administration’s efforts to bring to light and roll back costly and burdensome regulations.”

Top priorities for regulatory relief among ABC members include:

  • rescinding the unlawful “persuader” advice final rule (Interpretation of the ‘Advice’ Exemption in Section 203(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act), which would have a chilling effect on employers that need advice on labor relations matters;
  • rescinding the “white collar” overtime  rule, which would be extremely disruptive and harmful to both employers and many of their currently exempt employees, and would be destabilizing to the construction industry as a whole;
  • creating a more workable standard to replace the Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica rule, which is technologically and economically infeasible in the real world of construction;
  • rescinding the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule, which would force employers to disclose sensitive information to the public that can easily be misused for reasons wholly unrelated to safety, subject employers to illegitimate attacks and employees to violations of their privacy, and force many employers to change their current safety programs in ways that will make workplaces less safe by discouraging drug testing and safety incentive programs;
  • repealing, or at the minimum making common-sense reforms to, the Davis-Bacon Act, which uses a flawed wage survey process to determine federal “prevailing” wages in the construction industry and often makes it impossible for small contractors to know how to classify their employees;
  • enacting the Save Local Business Act, which would overturn overbroad joint employer tests that threaten many small employers in the construction industry with significant new burdens, and restore fairness to National Labor Relations Board oversight of small business workplace policies;
  • maintaining government neutrality in federal contracting by restricting project labor agreement mandates on federal and federally assisted projects, which drive up the cost of construction projects between 12 percent and 18 percent by discouraging competition from small contractors.

ABC also applauded the president’s executive order aimed at expanding apprenticeship opportunities and pledged to continue working with the White House, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, the SBA and other government entities to reduce regulatory burdens on America’s small businesses.

Made in America, Right in Wisconsin. Governor Walker Joins Empire Level to Celebrate Commitment to Growth in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker today joined employees of Empire Level (Empire), a division of Milwaukee Tool, and local officials to celebrate its commitment to manufacturing growth in Wisconsin. With more than 200 employees, Empire is driving growth and job creation in Wisconsin through partnerships with Milwaukee Tool, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Milwaukee 7, and local governments.

Milwaukee Tool invested $16 million to strengthen Empire since acquiring the company in 2014. This investment supported plant upgrades, over 150 new products, and more than 80 incremental hires.

“Empire Level and Milwaukee Tool have shown an outstanding commitment to growth and creating new manufacturing jobs right here in Wisconsin,” Governor Walker said. “Both of these long-time Wisconsin companies are teaming up with local colleges and universities on worker training initiatives to close the skills gap and recruit engineering talent. The commitment shown by companies like Milwaukee Tool and Empire is a major reason why Wisconsin will continue to lead the way in manufacturing and worker training.”

Founded in 1919, Empire is a Mukwonago, Wis.-based manufacturer of precision layout tools, and is the fastest-growing layout brand in North America. The company introduced such industry-firsts as the Monovial, the Torpedo Level, and the Magnetic Level, and its products are sold in more than 50 countries.

Milwaukee Tool is a Brookfield, Wis.-based manufacturer of cordless power tools, professional hand tools, and accessories. With its $16 million investment in Empire, Milwaukee Tool has rebuilt a 100-year MADE IN THE USA brand with a reputation for quality.

“Empire Level’s success is a testament to our commitment of driving growth and creating new jobs in Wisconsin,” said Milwaukee Tool Group President Steve Richman. “The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer, recognizes Empire as the fastest-growing and largest U.S. manufacturer of levels. Our strategic partnership has delivered tremendous growth which is focused on developing innovative solutions for our users and The Home Depot customers. The investments we’ve made in people, training, plant upgrades, and quality processes at Empire will allow us to continue delivering on this partnership.”

In February 2016, WEDC awarded $18 million in enterprise zone tax credits to support expansion efforts by Milwaukee Tool. The credits are tied to job retention, job creation, and capital investment.

GOMACO GHP-2800 two-track paver with Leica 3D guidance is slipforming a road in Dubuque, Iowa

This GOMACO GHP-2800 two-track paver with Leica 3D guidance is slipforming a road in Dubuque, Iowa. A GOMACO 9500 is placing material on the grade in front of the paver.

The 9500’s conveyor is being controlled by the operator’s remote control. The joystick is used for the up/down and right/left movement of the discharge conveyor.

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

*  The President’s most recent Executive Order was in the Federal Register last week: “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.”  This is an important directive, for a number of reasons and it deserves a close look, again, for a number of reasons.  First, the EO covers a wide range of projects, public and private: the “physical assets designed to provide or support services to the general public” including “roadways, bridges, railroads, and transit; aviation; ports, including navigational channels; water resources projects; energy production and generation, including from fossil, renewable, nuclear, and hydro sources; electricity transmission; broadband Internet; pipelines; stormwater and sewer infrastructure; drinking water infrastructure.”  Second, and importantly, it links to the FPISC, that’s the “Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council” created by the last federal transportation bill, the FAST Act, in 2015.  The new EO sets hammer dates and accountability.  In 30 days, for example, the Council on Environmental Quality is required to develop “an initial list of actions it will take to enhance and modernize the Federal environmental review and authorization process.”  This EO was signed August 15.  That means CEQ’s report is due around September 15.  That’s warp speed for those pipe-smoking brandy-sniffing philosophers.  Stay tuned.
*  The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) extended the public comment period for its proposals, initially made last December, regarding changes affecting the use of ACE “Reservoir Projects for Domestic, Municipal & Industrial Water Supply.”  If you drink water, or you know anyone who drinks water or otherwise needs, uses, requires, fishes from, swims in or floats upon water, this is a critical set of policy proposals, addressing and pulling into the spotlight federal water policy issues going back, oh, only about 85 years.  Reservoirs have multiple roles – potable water, irrigation, navigation, transportation, energy, industrial uses, recreation, flood control, fish and wildlife conservation.  As noted, the proposed revisions pull in some ancient stuff. Not surprisingly, the Corps’ text frequently mentions the Secretary of the Interior.  Frequently, though, like it was yesterday, the reference is to Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes, part of President Roosevelt’s cabinet from 1933 to 1946.  My how time flies…

CHICAGO, UNITED STATES – JULY 01: Politico Harold Ickes listening to news of defeat of Vice President Wallace to win renomination at Democratic National Convention. Harry Truman won on the second ballot. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures

*  Well, it’s not an easy document to get but the Navigation Risk Assessment (NRA) is available for the Hudson River “Champlain Hudson Power Express” project – the proposal to bury a 1000 megawatt transmission cable, lengthwise, under the Hudson River to carry electric power, starting from somewhere in Canada to New York City.  The cable, of course, could present issues for marine transportation on the Hudson because the cable will be covered by cement “blankets” in certain impermeable portions of the riverbed.  The report, paid for by the project sponsors, concludes that “the likelihood of interaction between vessels and the cable is minimal in almost all sections of the Considered Route” (not sure why that’s in caps…). The NRA also includes an “anchor snag manual” advising mariners what to do if their anchor, as it drags along the bottom of the River, say, in a storm or dense fog, accidentally snags the cable.  Whaddyathink – more to come on this?

Tom Ewing
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