The contractor labor shortage is causing repercussions throughout all levels of the construction industry. International Code Council Senior Vice President of Government Relations Sara Yerkes recently discussed the alarming scale of today’s skilled contractor labor shortage, and what can be done to reverse the trend, in an article published in lightED Magazine — Reversing the Trend: The Labor Shortage.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry lost approximately 2.3 million workers — 40 percent of its workforce — between April 2006 and January 2011, with six in 10 of those workers leaving the industry due to the housing crisis/recession,” Yerkes said, noting that the industry is currently struggling to fill an estimated 500,000 jobs and even more in the future. “As a function of the diminished federal support for technical/vocational schools, there’s a lack of awareness by young people, particularly at the high school level, about the prospects of good-paying jobs in the electrical, plumbing, welding, carpentry, masonry, and other construction-related fields.”

In response, Yerkes said that the Code Council signed on to support the ‘Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act,’ signed into law this July 31, which reauthorizes the ‘Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’ (the primary source of federal funding for the improvement of secondary and post-secondary career and technical education programs) through 2024.

“This reauthorization gradually increases annual funding from $1.2 to $1.3 billion over six years — a nearly 11 percent increase over fiscal year 2018 funding levels — and will expand the reach of career and technical education programs to ensure that more students can participate,” she said. “Although the U.S. Department of Education provides some national grants, the majority of this funding will flow to states, which will then sub-grant it to schools and localities.” Overall, she stressed, “we need to respect and accept that occupations in the building and technical fields are noble and worthy and ensure that they allow for rewarding, well-paid careers. Germany and other European countries value their craftsmen and industrial and technical workers and many have certifications and credentials that may even surpass a college education.”

The Code Council has taken the initiative with proactive steps to help stem the tide of contractor shortages. Among those measures, the association created Safety 2.0, a signature initiative designed to attract new members to the building and safety professions. “Safety 2.0 is the umbrella organization for a program we created at ICC five years ago to teach students in technical high schools how to navigate the building codes and give them a leg up as they transition into the building trades, code professions, etc.,” Yerkes shared.

The Code Council also created the Military Families Career Path Program to help veterans and their families find rewarding public service positions in code administration. “We believe that military folks share many of the same characteristics and qualities we need in code professionals, including integrity, an understanding of laws and regulations, ethics, technical savvy, and a commitment to serve,” Yerkes said. “The Code Council is committed to supporting our community and to finding the next generation of code professionals and skilled workers in technical schools, military, the female workforce — wherever they may be.”

Click here to read more at lightED Magazine.