The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, heard from representatives of the construction industry in a hearing entitled “Closing the Skills Gap and Boosting U.S. Competitiveness” on March 29.
There are about 100,000 fewer people working in the construction industry today than in 2007, said Rory DeJohn, senior vice president, Turner Construction Company. Though the industry has been able to fill the gap with higher productivity aided by new technology, the trend is for the skills gap to worsen, he said.
“There is a shortage of education and training opportunities for the people our industry needs most,” DeJohn said. There are efforts to increase the diversity of the talent pipeline, he said. “The Future City Competition, the ACE Mentor Program and Turner’s own YouthForce 2020 program are just three programs that are addressing this,” DeJohn said.
Efforts to make the construction industry safer, support for industry trade groups, and getting the word out to high school guidance counselors about opportunities in the industry can also make a difference, DeJohn said. Another key opportunity: helping to transition military veterans to the construction industry.