New high-rise apartments, construction cranes, glass skyscrapers, and mile after mile of new suburban residences – these are common sights in the resurgent economy in many parts of the United States, especially Texas. Those shiny developments are signs of a booming business in new construction.
But they also symbolize something else: a work opportunity. Most builders are desperately in need of new workers, and paying higher wages than ever before.
Why is there a labor shortage?
The National Association of Home Builders believes that, nationwide, at least a million new construction workers are needed. The problem is especially serious in states with above-average population growth, like Texas.
What is causing the crunch? Several factors are at play, including generational differences: Many skilled construction workers are nearing retirement, while younger people do not consider the industry a top career choice.
In the housing market crash that began in 2008, many home builders lost their jobs and moved on to other careers, while millennials entered the workforce at a time when construction was at a historical low. Even though the construction market is back to normal today, some former employees decided never to return, and young workers still do not think of construction technology as a viable career path.
Another factor is immigration, as undocumented immigrant workers leave the industry or return to their home nations. Many Americans consider construction jobs too menial – in part because they don’t realize how many skilled positions are available.
What opportunities are there in construction?
This industry isn’t just hammers and nails. A variety of skilled professions are involved in construction, including:
- Plumbers and pipefitters
- Electrical technicians
- Managers and management assistants
- Skilled carpenters
Every profession is in demand. A survey released by the Associated General Contractors of America found that over half of construction companies are having trouble finding carpenters, electricians, concrete workers, drywall installers, pipelayers, plumbers, painters, cement masons, roofers, sheet metal installers, crane operators, iron workers, welders, and general laborers.
That’s not just hundreds of thousands of jobs – it’s a wide range of different professions and skills.
In addition, construction management is an often-overlooked career field. Managers, often with associate degrees or professional certification, are needed to supervise projects, coordinate the logistics at a construction site, and make sure that the architectural plan is carried out perfectly.
Case study: North Texas
North Texas is a classic example of a market in desperate need of new workers.
The housing industry in Dallas is concerned about a labor shortage. Phil Crone, head of the Dallas Builders Association, told the Dallas Morning News in June 2017 that he estimates local builders need an additional “18,000 to 20,000” workers, agreeing with a Meyers Research estimate that Dallas is understaffed “by 10,000 to 20,000 construction workers.”
That shortfall of employees can bring a windfall for those willing to enter the industry. Michael Turner, of Classic Urban Homes, told the Dallas NBC affiliate that he has had to increase pay for bricklayers from $10 per hour to $19 per hour in order to attract workers.
What can I earn in construction?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are average hourly wages for a variety of construction professions:
- Masonry specialists: $19.82 per hour
- Drywall installers: $20.33 per hour
- Skilled carpenters: $20.96 per hour
- Plumbers and pipefitters: $24.74 per hour
- Electricians: $25.35 per hour
- Electronics/utilities installers and repairers: $26.89 per hour
- Elevator installers and repairers: $37.93 per hour
- Construction manager: $42.93 per hour
None of these professions requires a bachelor’s degree to enter.
For those willing to pursue work in construction, opportunities are diverse – and numerous. The industry is promoting education programs across the country, too, so look for local construction classes which offer internships and experienced instructors. Then find a specialty that’s right for you, whether it’s masonry, electrical work, management or something else.