Builders Are Feeling the Pinch of Worsening Labor Shortage [VIDEO]

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Just last week, construction executive Stan Marek noted on Construction Citizen, “The labor situation in Houston is heading into the biggest crisis we have ever seen.” Marek is right and the problem is just now really starting to impact builders throughout the area.

To find out more, I had a chance to sit down for a few minutes with Kathryn “Toy” Wood, CEO of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA) to talk about what she’s hearing from her membership. Wood says home builders around the area are already having problems scheduling projects because there simply aren’t enough skilled laborers to do the kind of work that’s required. Wood mentioned that even projects being built through GHBA’s charity, HomeAid Houston, are being slowed down because the needed workforce is simply not available.

Wood saw two main reasons for the current skilled labor shortage. She explained that when the recession hit and fewer new homes were being built, there was less work available so there was an “out migration” as some workers returned to their home countries. The other cause for the shortage is the lack of available training for the jobs. She stated:

“A lot of folks who are not immigrants but who are natural citizens of the United States, they are getting into the homebuilding industry in those positions – semi-skilled and skilled labor. So what we are trying to do is to find organizations, community colleges, technical colleges, even high schools and other groups that are working on finding and training folks who would like to get into the homebuilding industry.”

Wood mentioned that sometimes people entering the industry look at construction jobs as just temporary “summer jobs” or something to get by with until something else comes along. She talked about changing those folks’ perception about the industry:

“One of the challenges we have is showing the career path. They need to see that yes, it may be hard right now, but eventually you might be the boss – you might own this company, you might be able to work for a Builder. So showing that career path is part of what our challenge is. I think one of the things that we can help bring to the table as we try to train folks at whatever stage of their lives they are in, is to show them that there are career opportunities.”

Wood says the industry is doing everything it can to be proactive, including working closely with junior and technical colleges to train workers and put them on a career path in the skilled trades. However, much more must be done to face the challenge in the near future and for the long term.

More of my interview with Wood may be seen in the following 8 minute video.

The Greater Houston Builders Association is a voluntary trade organization specializing in single-family residential construction. Their approximately 1500 member companies include builders, developers, remodelers, loan companies, title companies, attorneys, certified public accountants and others who are involved in the homebuilding industry throughout nine counties of the greater Houston area.

HomeAid Houston is a 501(c)(3) charity sponsored by GHBA which brings member builders, vendors and suppliers together to build transitional shelters for homeless families and individuals who have suffered from abuse, job loss, mental and other catastrophic illness and other life-disrupting circumstances.


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