Construction Industry Concerned About Skilled Worker Shortages in the Near Future

July 1, 2012

With unemployment in design and construction reaching
over 20% in the last couple of years, skilled worker shortages may seem like
the last issue that the construction industry needs to worry about. However,
the demographics of an aging workforce, combined with the loss of workers
during the recession and the greater demand for workers expected as the economy
recovers, require the industry to consider whether the new worker pipeline is
sufficient. In addition, rising trends that require workers with
non-traditional skills, such as collaboration and green building, raise the
question of whether there are enough workers with the experience and skills necessary,
as these trends become more integral to the industry.

In response to these concerns, McGraw-Hill Construction
recently conducted research on workforce shortages and green jobs. The survey
results have been published in the Construction Industry Workforce
Shortages: Role of Certification, Training and Green Jobs in the Filling the
Gaps SmartMarket Report.
The report reveals that workforce shortages are
expected. It also demonstrates that more than one third of the industry has a
green job, and that the green building market, and the jobs associated with it,
will continue to grow at a strong pace. In addition, the study provides insight
into the role of certification in helping both workers and companies to succeed
to meet these new realities.


By 2015, McGraw-Hill Construction forecasts that
nonresidential construction will grow to be 73% higher than 2011 levels. While
it is important to remember that the 2011 levels of new construction starts
were very low, sustained levels of low activity over the past several years
have increased the number of workers who have left design and construction to
work in other fields. In fact, 58% of a representative sample of architects,
engineers, general contractors, and specialty trade contractors are concerned
about the loss of experience and skills due to workers leaving the industry
because of the recession.

Construction, like many other industries, also has a
significant number of baby boomers who are now approaching retirement age. 60%
of the survey respondents are concerned about the resulting loss of knowledge
as these workers retire.

In a separate, but related, survey of practicing architects
and architectural students conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction for the
American Institute of Architects (AIA), 79% of practicing architects who expect
a shortage are unsure whether the student pipeline will be sufficient to fill
the gaps. In addition, 78% of architecture students and recent graduates
express interest in working abroad, with over half motivated by the perception
that more work is available outside the United States.

Thus, even with the recovery just gaining momentum, 69% of
A/E and general contractor respondents expect some skilled worker shortages,
either among architects, general contractors, or specialty trade contractors,
by 2014.

Green Jobs and
the Green Building Market

addition to the results, the new report provides a construction
industry-specific definition of green jobs. McGraw-Hill Construction defines
green jobs as those involving more than 50% of work on green projects, or jobs
that involve designing and installing uniquely green systems. Green projects
are defined by McGraw-Hill Construction as projects that adhere to LEED or
other credible green building certification programs, projects that are energy
and water-efficient, and projects that address indoor air quality and/or
resource efficiency. Focusing on construction professions exclusively, these
definitions excludes support; administrative professionals; and manufacturing,
production, or transportation-related personnel. These definitions allows the
study to determine the level of green jobs in the industry based on direct
industry feedback.

In 2011, McGraw-Hill Construction estimated that green
building accounted for 41% of the total non-residential construction market.
This strong positioning of green projects in the marketplace is also reflected
in the number of green jobs; the survey reveals that green jobs account for 35%
of all the jobs in non-residential construction, representing nearly 650,000
jobs. Both green projects and green jobs are also expected to increase their
share of the overall market, with green projects accounting for nearly half
(48%) of the total market by 2015 and 45% of workers by 2014.

This dramatic growth has significant implications for the
availability of skilled workers necessary for these green jobs. In fact, even
now, the industry finds it challenging to find green, skilled workers, with
most of the respondents reporting that they have difficulty hiring green,
skilled employees:

  • 86% of A/E firms find it
    difficult to find skilled workers with green project experience

  • 91% of general contractors find
    it difficult to find skilled workers with green project experience

of Certification

avenue for the industry to address these concerns about skilled worker
shortages is through professional certification/accreditation. All respondents
recognize the business benefits of having certified employees on staff:

  • 71% find that having certified
    employees increases their competitiveness and their ability to win contracts.

  • 68% find that having
    green-certified employees allows them to expand their green business.

With the strong business benefits that
certification offers firms, it is not surprising that 75% of the respondents
find that certified workers have more job opportunities. Other benefits that
certified workers experience include valuable knowledge, better compensation,
and greater opportunities for advancement.

For more information on green jobs, skilled worker shortages,
and certification, download the Construction Industry Workforce Shortages:
Role of Certification, Training and Green Jobs in the Filling the Gaps
SmartMarket Report.
The report is available for free at
For additional insights into the construction market in general, please visit