Housing Market Recovers, But Construction Jobs Lag Behind

by 25 Feb 2013

Housing starts may be at their highest levels since 2007, but many investors and industry insiders are concerned about current staffing levels in the construction industry. Will there be enough construction workers and managers to take these housing starts to completion? What about the future of the industry, are there enough incentives for Generation Y professionals to look into a career in the residential construction industry?

American home builders seems to have everything going for themselves in terms of recovery, except a good plan to deal with labor shortages. A recent article by John Caulfield, senior editor at Builder magazine, underscored the need by the industry to convince post-secondary education students that residential construction is a career worth pursuing. Considering the battering that home builders took from 2007 until recently in terms of layoffs and financial losses, this might be a difficult sell.

The Specter of the Housing Bubble

Although the job market in the United States is also recovering, albeit at a slower pace than the housing market. In recent years, college graduates would take a job in just about any industry, but that is starting to change. Job stability is one of the most important factors considered by college students as they enter the workplace, and residential construction is far from being considered a stable field of employment. Construction laborers and skilled workers are not the only employees in scarce numbers, developers and managers are also ignoring home building.

Confidence is running high among home builders, and many of them are the current rising stars of Wall Street. To diversify their activities, home builders in the U.S. are also taking on multifamily construction projects. What they are not doing is reaching out to colleges and technical schools.

Residential construction does not seem stable to students graduating in the fields of construction management and engineering. They are taking jobs with commercial builder and civil engineering firms instead. According to Builder magazine, the housing bubble has stigmatized this labor sector.

A Solution Before College

What can home builders do to entice young professionals to join their ranks? Builder magazine suggests planting the seed of interest into residential construction earlier than college. The current number of construction-related curriculum programs in higher education is adequate, but the same cannot be said of high school vocational programs and trade schools.

President Barack Obama's administration has pushed for greater technical training of American workers in general, but the economic disaster caused by the housing bubble has not helped assuage concerns about the instability of residential construction. Although home builders may find it difficult to convince university students that the field is worthy of their consideration, high school students and technical school hopefuls may be easier to win over.

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