Scott Sedam, president of TrueNorth Development (, spends most of his time working in the trenches with builders, suppliers and trade contractors. His Lean Builder blog appears weekly at He welcomes your feedback at

Trade Shortage Dilemma

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There is a way for builders to overcome the labor shortage

Construction worker framing house
June 23, 2015

I just read a very interesting blog by John McManus stating that the Trade Shortage is not a political problem, but an economic one. I can agree that it is primarily an economic problem, but I will see you economics and raise you the political/ideological as well as societal.

A comprehensive immigration reform bill with provisions for guest workers would indeed help, but neither George W. Bush nor Obama had any luck pushing it through the current ideologically bound Congress, even with a pretty respectable bipartisan group plan and recommendation. “W” was damn near crucified by his own party over this. Chalk that one up to ideology.

The societal issue is whereas it used to be in the U.S. (and still is in Canada) considered a good and noble thing for your kid to become an electrician or plumber or framer, the trades as a career are hardly mentioned now whenever education comes up, it's all college-college-college. Go to your local high school "College & Career Fair" night and find 100 universities with fancy booths and brochures with the local vo-tech school hiding in the dark corner of the gym, if they are even invited. Right now, your career prospects are much better being an HVAC trade than a recent IT grad or, God help us, another unemployed law school graduate. And no one can ever export your HVAC installation & mtce. to China. 

My biggest frustration is with the NAHB and the local BIAs/HBAs, along with the National Builders. This problem has been developing for years. If you look at the magnitude of it, it is simply appalling how little has been done by the leadership in this industry. We reap what we sow. It will get worse before it gets better. The only answer for now is earning genuine "Builder of Choice" status, easier said than done. Many have, though. (I've written extensively on this, and for a PDF of my article series, "Solving the Trade Shortage" email and put "Trade Shortage" in the subject line.)

For those of you at PCBC this week, I will have a panel of experienced builders who have been working on this issue for years to share their experience with you. Come and participate.

Overcoming the Labor Shortage: Becoming the Builder of Choice          
June 25, 11:00 a.m. – Noon, Room 28D-E

The shortage of qualified trades has now evolved from a problem to a nationwide epidemic, limiting builders’ ability to respond to increased market demand at a profit. Last year, one builder shocked conference participants by declaring, “Delayed closings due to the labor shortage cost us $3.7 million last year.” Add to that the major customer satisfaction survey companies reporting that overall product quality is down. Are we condemned to this fate? The only solution is to truly become the Builder of Choice—the builder that trades and suppliers alike will chose over any competitor—not because you pay more, but because you do things so consistently well that you help them become more profitable. The Builder of Choice gets not only the best trades, but the best crews, and that makes all the difference. Scott Sedam, President of TrueNorth Development and Contributing Editor for Professional Builder magazine will host a panel of exceptional industry leaders who will share what they do specifically to achieve Builder of Choice status with their suppliers and trades.

Scott Sedam is President of TrueNorth Development, an international consulting and training firm counting more than 200 builders in five countries as clients. TrueNorth is home building’s leader in the implementation of Lean Operating principles that increase profit and build supplier/trade loyalty while producing a better home. For Scott’s new PDF of his article series in Professional Builder magazine, “Bridging the Margin Gap,” email to with “Margin Gap” in the subject line or call TrueNorth at 248.446.1275. We invite you to join our LeanBuilding Group on LinkedIn.


The shortage of skilled craftspeople is not isolated to just the building trades but all skilled labor categories.
And the problem is SELF INDUCED. Ask yourself what have you done as an employer to train and retain good people?
You are finding out that you cant just place an ad , and hire skilled people when you need them. (and then lay them off when your done)
You cut or eliminated training, you reduced benefits and other programs to retain good workers, and due to cutbacks and lack of help the ones that you have left you work like dogs to try to keep things running.
Our public school system is also to blame. The matra was to go to college, become a professional... sit in front of a computer and attend meetings for a six figure salary. They grossly mislead us.
Many districts closed there technical education segments due to low attendance.
Well who is making the higher wage today? the IT help desk person, or the welder?
With many years in american idustry and trades, this is not an overnight problem. If we want skilled labor we have to develop our own. Starting in school and continuing at the workplace. Develop basic technical apptitudes, Then begin OJT and apprenticeships with those willing to learn. And most of all trat your people with dignity and respect, afterall they are your greatest asset.........


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