Construction Industry Labor Shortages Loom in Arkansas

by George Waldon  on Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 12:00 am  

Richard Hedgecock

Leaders in the Arkansas construction industry are expecting demand soon will begin to exceed supply in some important building trades.

Those anticipated shortages start in the near future with electricians, plumbers and masons as the economy rebounds and construction demand picks up.

“It’s those skilled crafts like that,” said Bill Hannah, CEO of Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway. “That shortage has existed for some time even with the economic downturn.

“We expect as the economy improves we’ll be back to where we were in 2006, with shortages in a larger number of crafts.”

Hannah notes the venues are in place to provide the training for career craftsman. However, apprenticeship requirements, some with five years of on-the-job training, bring a time commitment into play that many aren’t willing to accept.

The chance to make around $30,000 a year starting out isn’t enough to lure a new generation of craftsman into the construction job market.

“How do you replace an aging workforce? I don’t know what the solution is,” Hannah said. “It’s harder to attract young people. I think it’s a generational issue.

“We’re seeing fewer and fewer young people wanting to pursue construction crafts. To me, it’s definitely not a pay issue.

“The problem is finding the people who want to do this kind of work, people recognizing the career opportunity in those crafts.”

The emphasis on college education and a white-collar career path is reinforcing a societal barrier to the construction field, where the image of blue-collar labor still prevails.

“Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for college,” said Richard Hedgecock, executive vice president of the

Arkansas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. “There is a mental hurdle we need to get over that you can only succeed if you have a college degree.

 

 

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