Construction industry struggling to fill jobs

It's no secret during the recession, construction was hit the hardest in Minnesota with nearly 38,000 jobs lost. But that was then.

Today, the construction industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the state, but there's real concern about finding enough workers to fill the open jobs.

It's an issue for Schwieters Companies. The subcontractor for new construction and remodels currently has about 30 projects underway in the metro area, though they could be doing even more work if they could fill their two dozen job openings.

"Right now the labor market is very tight and we're looking for more. I mean skilled labor is hard to come by now a days," said Jason Jones, general manager for Schwieters Companies.

Since the height of the recession, job vacancies in construction have climbed from 710 in the spring of 2009 to 67,000 in the spring of last year, according to Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

"They're still in building back up mode, now they're also being hit with a lot of retirements," said Oriane Casale, DEED's assistant director of Labor Information.

Traditionally dominated by white males, the construction industry is one of Minnesota's least diverse industries. In a recent state report, labor market analyst Oriane Casale makes the case the construction industry will have to hire more women and minorities or else it will suffer from serious worker shortages.

"There's very little population growth in the white population in this state right now. A lot of that population are baby boomers, and they're aging out of the workforce. And the young folks tend to be a much more diverse crew," said Casale.

One of the challenges for Schwieters Companies is they need trained carpenters.

"They're a skilled labor, it's a craft, and you really have to have those people that have done it before and are good at what they're doing," said Jones.

While his company offers a training program, general manager Jason Jones says long-term construction must attract and encourage younger generations.

"I think it's important that more and more people get into the trades, get into the industry and construction because it's not going away," said Jones.

The Builders Association of the Twin Cities is holding a residential construction job fair Thursday, February 16 from noon until 4:00 p.m. at the Mall of America Rotunda in Bloomington.  For more information, click here.

Alexandra Renslo reporting
Twitter: @alexrenslo

February 6, 2017


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