Labor Pains

You’re holding in your hands our annual Product Guide, full of products and equipment you can put to use on your concrete jobsites. While the right equipment and products can increase productivity and reduce labor costs, they can’t take the place of good employees. And finding and keeping good employees is a growing concern in the construction industry.

A recent Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) study reported 74 percent of construction firms are having trouble finding qualified craft workers like carpenters, equipment operators and laborers. Fifty-three percent reported difficulty finding professional positions like project supervisors, estimators and engineers. The vast majority of respondents don’t see this situation improving anytime soon.

Between December 2007 and January 2011, the construction industry lost 2.1 million jobs. Many of those workers retired or left the industry. Consequently, the lack of qualified workers is negatively affecting today’s recovery. A recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study showed 46 percent of responding companies experienced project delays due to labor shortages. Additionally, 56 percent of respondents from that AGC survey mentioned earlier reported they have had to increase wages and/or benefits to retain craft workers.

Finding and keeping good employees has always been a challenge for concrete business owners. Not everyone can physically perform the job, some people lack the drive to show up on time for work every day and the median age of the construction industry workforce is rising each year. But it appears contractors are facing an even greater challenge with labor than they have in the past.


Labor resources

There are a few resources concrete contractors can utilize to bypass the masses and reach potential employees who want to be part of the concrete and construction industries. The Concrete Industry Management (CIM) Program is a university-level degree program for students interested in working in the concrete industry with producers, manufacturers and contracting companies. Programs are offered at four universities: Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), California State University-Chico, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Texas State University-San Marcos. Concrete contractors are encouraged to take advantage of CIM’s student internship opportunities. Find them online at

I recently read about a new startup called WorkHands, an online community for craft workers. Contractors and workers are encouraged to set up a free profile, share photos of their work and connect with other members across the country. Companies looking to hire can advertise their jobs on the site and connect with workers who might be a fit for the job. One article described WorkHands as a “LinkedIn for American’s estimated 20 million skilled workers.” Find them online at

This is a topic that affects all readers, and one we will follow and report on in future issues. Email me or call me at the contact information at the top of this page. I want to hear about the employment challenges your company faces and/or the effective strategies you utilize to find and keep good employees.