Job growth in the construction industry since 2011 has been steady, but it is not keeping pace with the current construction labor shortage. From 2006 to 2011, the construction industry lost almost 40 percent of its workforce because of the recession. That meant a loss of around 2.3 million jobs, many of them skilled laborers who left the construction workforce completely.
The Number Of Minorities In Construction
In 2008, the construction workforce in New York City was 43 percent Caucasian and 31 percent Hispanic. During that period, more Hispanics were leaving the construction workforce, which was made worse by the fact that more Hispanics were leaving the country during a time when the industry needed more workers. In 2015, it was reported that there were more Hispanic construction workers in New York City than Caucasian workers, but the national construction workforce still shows a deficit of 1.2 million workers.
As the construction industry continues to grow, there is a lack of interest in construction jobs among Caucasians. This means that the deficit in workers has to be made up by minority groups. However, it has been traditionally difficult for minorities to find steady work in the construction industry. With the possibility of losing more skilled workers to President Trump’s immigration wall project looming, it is time to see if the construction labor shortages can be made up with minority groups.
Construction Industry Needs To Address Gender And Foreign Worker Related Issues
Only nine percent of the entire construction workforce is made up of women, which shows how much of an untapped talent pool women represent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that of the 10.3 million construction workers employed in the United States, an estimated three million were Hispanic. These numbers make for a national percentage of 29 percent, which falls well short of the New York City number of 37.75 percent of Hispanic workers in the construction industry. There is room for improvement in bringing minorities into the construction workforce, but the industry faces some significant challenges.
Women avoid taking jobs in the construction industry because of the male-dominated environment that creates plenty of issues such as sexual harassment. Women are also generally uninformed as to how lucrative a construction career can be, and how many jobs are available that women can fill.
For example, in 2015 as many as 86 percent of all construction companies indicated they had problems filling critical job vacancies. At the same time, the construction unemployment rate was at 4.5 percent, which is its lowest in years. There is a need for women in the construction workforce, but there is no motivation for women to take any interest in the available positions.
The changes in the immigration policies of the United States have caused many undocumented construction workers to either quit their jobs to avoid detection, leave the United States and find work in areas south of Mexico where the immigration laws are much more relaxed or become caught up in the immigration dragnet that is deporting workers at a rapid rate. Even immigrant workers who are in the United States legally are starting to have thoughts of leaving the country to find work closer to their homes.
What Can the Construction Industry Do?
Construction companies have ramped up efforts to recruit minority workers, especially women. Outreach programs sponsored by the construction industry are providing information to women who want to work in construction and offering options for employment. The construction industry is also policing itself when it comes to issues with sexual harassment and other problems in the workforce that are keeping women away.
To make the industry more attractive to the rising numbers of potential Hispanic workers, construction companies are hiring bilingual job supervisors and offering all training programs in Spanish. Some companies are even offering administrative training that is encouraging Hispanic construction workers to start their own companies and offer jobs to other Hispanics.
Innovative Solutions To The Shortage
Construction companies are also attacking prejudice against minorities head-on in an attempt to make the working environment more appealing to minority workers. Many companies have recognized that the influx of potential immigrant workers is important to their future, and they are taking steps to attract those workers with more pleasant working situations.
In the construction industry, there is a desperate need to bring in new workers to fill the growing number of job openings. A big part of the initiative to attack the labor shortage is to reach out to minorities and workers in demographics that would normally avoid construction work, and make the idea of taking construction jobs more appealing in a variety of ways.