Wicked problems have been a huge part of our lives!
Most of us know that the housing market has been a little crazy for the past few years. Some of that has been due to wicked problems like labor shortages, supply chain issues, and even land shortages in many parts of the country.
The labor shortage has been of interest to many people, me and my guest co-host for today included. So, we decided to do something about it!
I’m Marla, the Green Home Coach! Today I am joined by Will Blake, of Vesta Foundation Solutions in Oklahoma City. Will and I have worked together on several projects.
Today, we are talking about workforce development, particularly in the building industry and skilled trades.
Lately, it could take weeks or even months to get a plumber to come out unless it’s an emergency, and you are willing to pay double.
A cascading labor shortage
The labor shortage in the new build and remodeling industry is cascading! That’s because there aren’t enough people in the trades, especially the licensed trades.
We are greying out in the licensed trades. That means that those who have been trained to become the backbone of the industry are retiring. So, why are there no people behind them as they choose to move on with their lives?
A shrinking workforce
Will’s construction company specializes in an unlicenced trade, and even so, they are still experiencing issues with supplies, rising costs, and a shrinking workforce.
Most people we converse with fit into one of three categories:
- Nobody wants to work in this category. (This is the largest category.)
- People in this category are trying to identify generational workplace inequalities or issues with safety, diversity, and inclusion.
- People in this category want to know what we are going to do about the situation. (This is the smallest category. Will and I fit in here.)
Almost 20% of our workforce will be aging out by 2025. Many of them will be taking all their knowledge, wisdom, hard skills, operational knowledge, and understanding of vendor relationships with them. Nearly 12% will come in to replace them, but that will be spread across all industries.
We did not get the population increase we were hoping for after Covid. Closing the borders and slowing down the movement of migrant workers into the country has also added to the problem of not being able to build enough houses.
Technology can provide some innovative new housing solutions, but there are still many missing pieces, and technology will not solve the hands-on labor problem.
A difficult business
Construction is a difficult business. 50% of businesses go out of business in the first five years. But in construction, it happens with 75% of businesses.
Will’s company does foundation repair, concrete lifting, wood floor system repair, crawl spaces, and drainage. As a company, they tie its purpose back to the concept of the broken window theory, which is all about caring for infrastructure. So even if their efforts do not directly help the company, they are meant to indirectly support the industry and fix the problem with staffing, supply chain issues, etc.
No one to do repairs
If no people are available to do the necessary repairs to our homes and businesses, it means that either they won’t get done, or the homeowner will have to DIY them.
What is the problem?
The message for getting people into the construction trade has either been lost or skewed dramatically. Schoolchildren are encouraged to go to college rather than explore careers in the trades even though many people in the trades are earning a lot more than their college counterparts.
Build My Future
Build My Future OKC is an event put on by the Central OKlahoma Association of Home Builders and it’s Professional Women in Building Council. It is a one-day hands-on interactive construction career fair. When I moved back to Oklahoma City from St. Louis, and we got Professional Women in Building going again after being dormant, I told the other members about Build My Future and suggested we make it our signature project. They all agreed. Currently, there are between 25 and 30 Build My Futures taking place across the country to help young people learn about careers in the skilled trades and building industry.
Interesting career opportunities
There are some exciting and fulfilling career opportunities within the skilled trades, from marketing to sales to administrative to the production side to manufacturing, that provide a great living above the national average without any student debt loans.
One thing that has come up is that we need to go younger because high school students pick a track to follow in the eighth grade.
A week-long camp
A group of like-minded construction business owners suggested doing a week-long free camp, Construct My Future, to allow kids to learn about various things they can do in the trades. Although they had good intentions and good support initially, things only worked out when they started focusing on seventh and eighth graders rather than high school students. The seventh and eighth graders were very engaged, and their parents also got involved.
A big part of our mission with the Build My Future and Construct My Future programs is to help more people- especially teachers and parents, understand the great possibilities in the skilled trades industry.
The world is full of opportunities. Will suggests that young people keep an open mind to learning a specialty skill that will be useful everywhere and give a lot of value.
Have a wonderful October and Careers in Construction Month!
Build My Future – Get Involved