Construction industry officials say they face a shortage of workers and obstacles need to be removed for the industry to attract them.
Associated General Contractors of America spokesman Brian Turmail says the construction industry is booming.
“That’s good news, but all this growth is occurring at a time when many older construction workers are retiring out of the profession and too few young adults are choosing to pursue careers in construction, even though they’re high-paying careers,” Turmail tells reporters during a news conference in Lincoln.
Turmail claims a focus on going to college and four decades of dismantling robust vocational education in high school has undermined the construction workforce. AGC says those in the construction industry make 12% more than most others in the private sector; often able to earn $47,000 a year without having to take on college debt.
Nebraska Road Building and Heavy Highway President Ted Butler with Constructors, Inc. says perceptions need to change so more high school students consider going into construction. Butler says society needs to get past the stereotypes and give students the real understanding of a potential career in construction.
AGC has called for reforms to the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which funds vocational education programs. It also wants more money spent on career and technical education.
The Lincoln metro area added more new construction jobs at a faster rate than all but 11 of the nation’s metro area over the past 12 months.
AGC estimates the industry will need 19% more workers in the next five years. That need will only grow with the demand for more infrastructure in Nebraska and throughout the country, according to Nebraska Building Chapter President Chris Brester with Brester Construction.
“As we sit in 2018, 32 years from now we have to have twice what exists today,” Brester says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in 32 years.”
All three worry that a lack of construction workers could hamper economic growth with Brester stating that for every $1 invested in construction, $7 is returned to the economy.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]