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Springfield, MO

Report: State has shortage of construction workers, despite higher salaries

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The Associated General Contractors of Missouri yesterday revealed workforce survey data showing a shortage of construction workers statewide, despite relatively high salaries.

Speaking from Ozarks Technical Community College, AGC President Leonard Toenjes pointed to survey results indicating construction workers contribute $11 billion, or 3.7 percent, to Missouri’s $301 billion gross domestic product. The occupation employs 118,700 Missourians and offers wages that are 20 percent higher than the average of $56,000 in Missouri. Employment opportunities in the industry are projected to grow by 10 percent 2014-2024.

Despite this, Toenjes said the industry is experiencing a lack of workers.

“These all require skilled staff people and we really need people coming into the industry right now,” he said.

According to the survey, Missouri housed 13,000 construction firms in 2015, of which 91 percent employed less than 20 workers. Toenjes said, because of retirements, demographics and the 2008 economic downturn, a shortage of construction workers “has reached critical levels in Missouri and throughout the country.”

Seventy-one percent of Missouri contractors have difficulty filling hourly jobs, 20 percent say the same of salaried field positions and 41 say the same of salaried office jobs, according to the survey.

Justin Frese, OTC construction technology instructor, said he’s personally witnessed the worker shortage, as contractors seeking employees often contact him.

The problem isn’t just limited to Missouri, however, Frese said. According to AGC data, 92 percent of construction firms in the United States reported employing fewer than 20 workers. In fact, a Los Angeles, California, company recently contacted Frese looking for employees among OTC’s graduates.

“It’s that bad, folks, and there are not enough people to go around,” he said.

In an attempt to remedy this shortage, OTC will offer an AGC of Missouri student chapter, allowing them to get on-the-job experience.

“It’s a little more than what they see in the classroom,” Frese said.

He said the program will begin immediately, matching students with local contractors – of which he did not provide names – that students will shadow. Frese said several students have already expressed interest.

According to the AGC of America website, there are more than 170 student chapters nationwide, partnering with schools offering programs in construction management, construction technology and construction-related engineering.

Ultimately, Frese said this program is a hiring process – connecting students with the industry outside the classroom so they can see firsthand the opportunities for job growth.

“It’s more exposure to general contractors,” OTC Provost and Vice Chancellor Tracy McGrady added.

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