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Trade Shortage Dilemma

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Labor + Trade Relations

Trade Shortage Dilemma

There is a way for builders to overcome the labor shortage

June 23, 2015
Construction worker framing a house

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 info@truen.com 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.


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Written By

Scott Sedam is president of TrueNorth Development, a consulting and training firm that works with builders to improve products, process, and profits. A senior contributing editor to Pro Builder, Scott writes about all aspects of the home building business and won the 2015 Jesse H. Neal Award, business journalism's most prestigious prize, for his commentary in Pro Builder. Scott invites you to join TrueNorth's Lean Building Group on LinkedIn and welcomes your feedback at scott@truen.com or 248.446.1275.

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