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The Construction Workforce Will Boom

Even if Trump's infrastructure plan turns to a bust, the construction workforce will be fine

Kate Hogan's picture
by Kate Hogan on
Aug 30, 2017

The predicted boom in construction under Trump is turning into a bust. Even before the rebuilding needed from Hurricane Harvey starts, it’s clear that Trump’s plan to boost the economy with millions of construction jobs is another promise he will be unable to keep.

Trump promised to deliver $1 trillion in infrastructure spending early in his first year, but he is now talking about trying to get one through Congress by year’s end. There is also a concern it may be pushed into 2018. Trump abandoned a plan for an infrastructure advisory group earlier this month in the wake of his controversial comments on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. While some say that the administration still hopes to get an infrastructure plan approved this year, Congress must first tackle the debt ceiling and an unwritten tax bill. This could prove difficult. 

There is also a concern that construction companies can’t find enough qualified workers. The administration’s immigration policies could be leading to this by making it more difficult to bring in qualified workers from other countries. In 2014, almost one in every four construction workers were immigrants. On top of that, about 3 million of the current 14.5 million construction workers will retire or leave the industry over the next decade. Those skilled workers will need to be replaced. Richard Cavallaro, CEO of construction company Skanska USA Civil, thinks this may be an impossible task. “I don’t think we would even dream of finding enough people.” he told Transport Topics.

Many construction companies have already started different campaigns to start bringing in new recruits. New York based Turner Construction has a program that will allow them to pay subcontractors more quickly than other companies to ensure their availability for projects. The Chairman and CEO Michael Burke of AECOM one of the largest construction companies in the United States, said that his company aims to fill more than 3,000 positions through a partnership with the Los Angeles Community College District. This will help prepare students for infrastructure-related jobs. Another company, Jar Construction Inc., a family-owned firm with 120 employees in El Paso, Texas is offering to make the monthly student debt payment for some new hires.

Labor unions also offer various forms of training. For example, LIUNA Training offers two different types of apprenticeship programs. One is for commercial construction and the other is for residential construction. Both will help new hires get started on their new career. LIUNA apprentices, regardless of experience, immediately begin to earn a wage while learning on the job and in the classroom. Completing this kind of apprenticeship program can provide members with up to 30 semester hours towards college credits. Another training program is Opportunities Long Island, or OLI. OLI is an outreach and training program which provides access to high-quality careers in the unionized construction industry to qualified individuals in low-income communities. Through partnerships with the Nassau Building and Construction Trades Council, Suffolk County Department of Labor, the United Way of Long Island, Hempstead Works and community leaders, trainees receive job readiness classes, gain knowledge about the crafts and learn the skills needed to be competitive when applying for a union apprenticeship.

The construction workforce isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Even as older workers retire, a new group will be coming in to take their place. If Trump’s big plans ever do come through, the construction workforce will be ready.

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