Why are NJ Contractors Hurting for Skilled Construction Workers?
As construction accelerates, shortages of skilled trades workers have become more and more apparent.
"There is a shortage of qualified workers, particularly in the highly-skilled trades," economic analyst Patrick O'Keefe, of Cohn/Reznick in Roseland, said last week.
O'Keefe is the former head of the New Jersey Builders Association and says carpenters, electricians, plumbers and other construction workers are harder to come by because many in the industry left during the housing downturn 10 years ago. As a result, The National Association of Home Builders says builders are struggling to find the skilled help they need.
O'Keefe says that while single-family home construction is not what it was 10 years ago in New Jersey, there is still a lot of condo and apartment activity. He says the trade skills required for certain elements in single-family home construction is very high.
"General laborers and trainees are available. But when it comes to residential construction, especially in single-family construction, where you are looking at finer detail, the skills and the experience are critically important. Otherwise what happens is, you have to go back in and 'undo' mistakes rather than getting it right the first time."
Many builders groups in New Jersey are getting behind ramped-up apprentice programs to replace the estimated 30 percent loss in workers. Earlier this month, the Camden Career Initiative announced a new apprentice program to train 100 city residents for construction careers.
O'Keefe says some of these skills take time to acquire.
"That is not something that somebody can pick up instantaneously. It requires time and patience."
On the positive side, the pay is good, especially here in New Jersey.
"Being a high-cost state, high cost-of-living state, New Jersey wages are, typically, on any employment category, higher than the national average. And that remains the case in the construction industry."