Report: Boise contractors struggling to find qualified construction workers

Posted at 1:54 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 21:01:29-04

Construction employment expanded at a faster rate in Boise than all but one of the nation's metro areas during the past twelve months according to a report released by the Associated General Contractors of America Tuesday. However, local contractors are finding it difficult to find trained and experienced workers.

"As demand for construction grows in Boise and many other parts of the country, more firms are facing the challenge of finding enough qualified workers," said Brian Turmail, national spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America. "To avoid going from a market where firms don't have enough work to one where they don't have enough workers, the nation needs to take steps to prepare the next generation of workers."

"We are seeing record employment throughout our state, with many Idaho families reaping the benefits of this growth," said Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little. "But with this good news, comes the continuing challenge for local businesses of finding enough skilled workers across our economy. For Idaho to be prepared to sustain growth, with great employment opportunities and higher wages for all Idahoans, we must focus on graduating students and training those already working with the necessary skills our employers require to succeed," he added.

Turmail noted that the Boise metro area added 3,600 new construction jobs between June 2015 and June 2016, a 19 percent increase. He added that, out of the 358 metro areas the association tracks, the area ranks second for the largest percentage increase in construction employment. There are 22,600 people working in construction in Boise today, up from 13,400 when local industry employment bottomed out five years ago.
"With a growing economy comes capital investment and construction, and today's announcement signals that Idaho continues to be one of the top states for business growth," said Megan Ronk, Director of Idaho's Department of Commerce. "Idaho prides itself on 'moving at the speed of business' by ensuring that we have a skilled talent ready to meet the needs of our state's construction industry."

The association spokesman said the Boise area was not alone when it comes to adding construction jobs. Nationwide, 228 out of 358 metro areas added new construction jobs between June 2015 and June 2016, including the Coeur d'Alene and Pocatello metro areas. But he cautioned that 82 metro areas lost construction jobs during the same period.

Turmail noted that two-thirds of metro areas are adding construction jobs at a time when many people are leaving the construction workforce. According to the latest federal figures, over a million construction workers left the industry -– for retirement, school or jobs in other sectors -– in the past four years.

That’s why the association released its Workforce Development Plan Tuesday, which outlines a series of steps the group feels federal, state and local officials should take to make it easier to establish construction training programs.

The plan calls for reforms to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act -- which funds vocational education programs -- to give states increased flexibility and autonomy. The plan also calls for increased funding for career and technical education. It calls on state and local officials to make it easier to establish charter schools and career academies that focus on construction skills. The plan urges state officials to enact legislation allowing high school students to enroll tuition-free in public community college career and technical programs.

Turmail added that the workforce plan was designed to complement the many steps the Idaho AGC chapter is taking to address workforce shortages, including launching the construction recruiting website. "This site provides resources to students, educators, parents and others looking to explore high-paying careers in construction," said Joe Jackson, president of the AGC Idaho chapter. "The site also includes the latest information on training programs and scholarships as well as job openings across the state."