There’s a clear solution to home building’s need for skilled labor: greater support for women
A survey last year done by Associated General Contractors of America revealed that 83% of construction firms have had a hard time finding enough qualified workers to meet demand—a figure that rises to 86% in the Southeast, where the shortage is most severe.
As a certified general contractor in Tampa Bay, Florida, I see a clear solution to the workforce shortage: greater support for women in construction.
Women have historically been underrepresented in the construction industry; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that females hold only 2.6% of all construction and extraction occupations. The good news is, a steadily growing number of women are taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the skilled trades, from enrolling in apprenticeships to establishing their own construction and contracting firms. This year, a study by the Commonwealth Institute South Florida of the state’s women-led businesses found that construction was among the top three industries represented; following professional services, construction tied with manufacturing/distribution for second place.
It’s time for construction firms to address the predicted workforce shortage. I’ve seen firsthand the dedication and skill that women bring to construction industry; I’ve worked side-by-side with women in the field, where they’ve proven to be extremely capable. Women owe it to themselves to explore construction careers, which offer better earning and advancement potential than many lower-paid, traditionally female-dominated roles.
To address the impending workforce shortage in construction, the key is to start early and broaden the reach. It starts with educating girls in middle and high schools about alternative career fields, as well as expanding access to vocational and technical programs. Job centers need to encourage those seeking employment to consider training for construction industry related occupations. As for the Southeastern states facing imminent worker shortages, I suggest marketing through the tourism industry to bring in skilled trade workers from other states, emphasizing the mild climate, year-round employment, and relatively low cost of living.
There are many resources for women interested in construction opportunities, and I recommend the National Association of Women in Construction, National Center for Construction Education and Research, Build Your Future, and Associated Builders and Contractors for training, scholarship, and apprenticeship information.
Professional Builder's conference, Building Together: Women in Residential Construction, will take place in Phoenix, September 23 to 25.