By now, most people within the construction industry have heard the term “labor shortage.” As the number of project opportunities rises for door and window installers during this strong economic market, many contractors are having to turn additional work away due to a lack of labor to fill the job. A skills gap is considered by many to be one of the potential reasons for the labor shortage.

“The construction industry continues to add employees in most of the nation, despite a shortage of workers with construction experience. But job openings are growing, as contractors encounter a shrinking pool of experienced jobseekers,” said chief economist Ken Simonson at the Associated General Contractors of America in the organization’s monthly construction employment report.

 A skills gap is the disparity between job openings and people available and skilled enough to fill those jobs across all industries — and it’s not just affecting residential construction, either.

According to the 2018 Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook report by Key Media & Research (KMR), nearly 90 percent of glazing contractors in the U.S. say the skilled labor shortage has had an effect on their ability to find quality craft workers. Half of all respondents to KMR’s nationwide outlook survey say it has had a “big” effect. According to the report, the skilled labor shortage also ranks as glaziers’ biggest concern this year among ten key categories.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that employment in construction and extraction occupations will grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the 7-percent average increase across all occupations.

Many states are addressing the potential skills gap.

Montana has a workforce project called RevUp Montana, which emphasizes placing high school students into short-term degree, apprenticeship and certification programs to fill the skills gap, which the program’s director told the Flathead Beacon is being caused by a monumental workforce demographic shift.

As baby boomers age out of the workforce in large numbers, employers are looking to a pool of new workers to fill the jobs left unfilled.

From December 2017 to January 2018, the number of job openings within the construction sector increased 101,000, according to BLS’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary. In January, 250,000 jobs opened up, 342,000 jobs were filled and 332,000 people left their jobs.

Apprenticeships and training are a major way the industry can combat the alleged skills gap and subsequent labor shortage.

“Putting the debate aside as to whether or not there really is a ‘skills gap,’ some of the reasons reported as to why employers are having trouble recruiting the skilled workforce they need, and difficulty with the retention of that skilled workforce, have already been recognized by the IUPAT and the rest of the Building Trades in their crafts, including glazing,” says Anton Ruesing, director of the IUPAT Finishing Trades Institute. “Reports indicate that a lack of diversity in the workforce, the absence of ‘soft skills’ training, technology development outpacing training and other external factors like the toll the opioid crisis is taking on the construction industry are among the main factors contributing to the perception of a skills gap.”

In addition to participation in the Building Trades goal of having 20 percent women in the workplace by 2020, the IUPAT continues to build and train a diverse workforce.

“The IUPAT FTI offers ongoing training to maintain the skills of the IUPAT workforce and meet the changing technology in the field. It uses industry standards and industry certification programs to prove that IUPAT members have the skillset to meet the needs of the industry. Moreover, the Painters and Allied Trades Labor Management Cooperation Initiative (LMCI) provides construction management courses, including ‘soft skills’ training that develops emotional intelligence and people skills. The LMCI is also working with the IUPAT on surveying its membership to gauge the impact opioid epidemic is taking on the men and women of the trades with the goal of making a positive impact through a number of new prevention and treatment initiatives.”

Ruesing says that these measure have been well received by the companies for which IUPAT members work, and he believes this is the path to make certain a qualified and safe workforce is available to meet work demands.

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