Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It’s Not a Labor Shortage, It’s a Worker Shortage

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been stopping at construction sites around my area. New million sq ft distribution facilities to tract home developments as well as single family homes and even a new shopping center.


After the first couple stops I began noticing a trend. Few if any young people were actually doing work at the job sites. Most of the workers were men 35+ years old and the only woman I saw was in charge as a superintendent.


At each job site I asked the same questions.

“Do you have enough labor on this job?” If they didn’t have enough I asked “Why?”

“Where are the young workers I used to see on construction sites?”

As I compiled the answers I began to notice a pattern. First, most of the jobs needed a couple of extra workers but they were doing a good job without them simply because of the maturity of the existing workers on site. They picked up the slack without much prodding.

Related Article: A Construction Training Program Increasing the Skilled Labor Pool

The young woman, a superintendent in her early 30’s, told me that she would rather work with men who knew their trade rather than having people her age on the job. When pressed as to why she said she didn’t have to wonder if the job was being done correctly when the ‘older guys’ (her words) did the work.


At the shopping center site I bumped into a VP for the construction company. He was doing an inspection. I asked him my questions and got an interesting response.

He told me that finding laborers was easy but finding workers was hard. Put an ad in the newspaper or go to an agency and by Monday morning he had 20 new hires. By Wednesday he had 12 return, by Friday he had 8 of those quit. Most of the others stayed at least 90 day but usually only one of the original 20 stayed longer than a year. That was the one the company would begin training for a skilled position.

The age of the ‘labor’ that showed up the first day varied from recent high school dropouts to older men and women that had hit hard times. Many couldn’t follow simple directions, some didn’t speak or understand English and others failed the drug test even before they could start working.

When I talked to two men on their lunch break about how they got started in construction and if they are planning on staying they both were happy to tell me.

Turns out they both went to the same high school 8 years apart. Both went to Vo-Tech and both took carpentry from the same teacher. Both liked their jobs and they have been getting steady increases in pay to keep them working for the company.

They also told me about the steady stream of young kids that pass through without staying very long once they realize that hard work and texting all day don’t go together very well. That made both of them laugh.

It would seem there is no labor shortage as plenty of people are available but finding a ‘worker’ is getting tougher to find.

The elimination of Vo-Tech and lack of skills training after high school or college has more to do with the ‘labor’ shortage than simply saying “Millennials don’t want to work.” They want to work but simply haven’t been properly prepared for it.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You nailed it...good observations...this has been in the making for years now..it’s not a surprise to those in the trades.

Anonymous said...

My experience, and another way to phrase it is:

They want a paycheck. They don't want a job.

William aka "Little Bill" said...

Great field reporting Coach. You got first hand responses from those doing the work. I have to agree with the one who stated "hard work and texting do not go together well". I see it everyday. Its true. Its damn true.

Chuck Owings said...

I do a couple of classes at our local Vo-Tech and I admire the kids that are there to learn a trade. Good money right out the door in a trade they enjoy. There are a lot of kids that just aren't into the college thing and would rather work with their hands. I was that way and have enjoyed what I do all my life. No regrets.

Anon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I call it the "Participation Trophy Syndrome"... These, now young adults, are a generation who grew up receiving participation trophies all their lives for just showing up to events...By not wanting to fracture their delicate self worth society began to adopt this premise that we needed to reward everyone that showed up instead of just rewarding those that performed well... This way little Johnny or Susie wont feel bad because they didn't get a trophy... By doing this we have in essence removed the mind set that hard work and determination gets you the rewards because in they grew up in a world where everyone gets a trophy... We are now getting our first glimpse into what that kind of thinking produces... As parents we always want to give our children better than we had but we need to be careful that in the process we do not loose sight of how to prepare them for the life that lies ahead.

Anonymous said...

Let the wages rise until the attract intelligent workers. Our industry has been ruined by the invasion of illegals and third world worker that artificially held construction wages down. Not to the betterment of the USA over all. I can't expect the average american with a low IQ to discern actual cause and effect. The great generation are rolling over in their graves at what has been done by a greedy elite and totally ignorant selfish business people. They fought for good wages and a good life. The last 15 years especially the american working person has been targeted to be reduced to slave wages. The average american has 1300 mor sq ft of house than in 1971. So I am losing my american dream to give this greedy screwed up dysfunctional generation their cyber view of what they are entitled to. Remember the days when people started in what was called a starter home? I am done losing my american dream for a collection of social NWO lucifarian assholes ruining america.