Home Builders Seeking Skilled Workers to Build American Dream

By Harvey Kessel, President; Wisconsin Builders Association

As our economy and the housing market continue to recover, and as October kicks off as Careers in Construction Month, home builders across the country are seeking skilled workers – such as carpenters, framers and roofers – to help them build the American Dream.

After many workers left the home building industry during the Great Recession to pursue employment in other sectors, recent surveys show that not nearly enough of them have returned.

In fact, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data and analysis by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), there were 138,000 open construction sector jobs in August, which was relatively unchanged from July.

An NAHB survey of home builders further illustrates the depth of this problem. Six in 10 of those surveyed experienced delays in completing projects on time, 18 percent had to turn down some projects and 9 percent lost or cancelled sales because they had too few workers to complete their homes.

We’ve also experienced many of these issues here in Wisconsin. When builders are unable to schedule trades on time, it means that buyers are unable to move into their home on time. These delays and production logjams are hurting the housing recovery by increasing the cost of building homes and making housing more expensive for consumers.

Former Wisconsin Builders Association President David Belman of Belman Homes in Waukesha noted that a recent review of a replica home they built two years ago showed the

home price increased at least $3,500 in that time frame solely due to labor costs. “Construction on that home rose 7% in two years, because finding skilled workers is challenging and we are forced to pay higher rates to keep good employees, like many other industries,” said Belman. “The average construction worker in Wisconsin is now 39 years old while the average builder is 59. If we don’t see an increase in the number of quality people entering the construction field, we’re going to see home prices continue to rise purely because of labor, not to mention other impacts to the increased cost of materials.”

Building Trades Offer Great Career Path A home builder relies on a number of highly trained workers to get the job done right. This includes dozens of skilled artisans and professionals, including carpenters, architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians, painters and landscapers. Indeed, recent analysis from NAHB shows that 70% of builders typically use somewhere between 11 and 30 subcontractors to build a singlefamily home. On average, 22 different subcontractors are used to build a home.

This means there is ample opportunity for motivated students seeking a rewarding career path. Residential construction workers consistently express high job satisfaction. And average salaries in Wisconsin remain competitive with other industries in our area. For example, an average Wisconsin plumber makes $66,140/year while the top 25 percent of individuals in the profession make over $80,000. Comparatively, masons, electricians, and building inspectors all make well over $50,000/year while the average wage in the Wisconsin construction industry is $54,000/year.

The residential construction industry is one of the few sectors where demand for new workers is rising, and the housing industry is working diligently to meet this challenge by training more workers and leaders in the construction industry.

To learn more about job opportunities in Wisconsin, visit wisbuild.org/wb-foundation, wisconsintechconnect.com, or the local home builders association in your area.

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