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Autodesk-AGC survey finds 80% of firms have trouble filling craft jobs, adding to cost, delays

Wednesday, September 5, 2018  
Posted by: Trish Moss
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Filling craft positions and some salaried positions is an even greater challenge for contractors than it was a year ago, according to participants in the Autodesk-AGC of America 2018 Workforce Survey, released on Wednesday. (The site includes results for four regions and 34 states, and by firm size, union/nonunion, and project type.) Of the 2,552 respondents (a 38% increase from the 2018 survey), 80% stated they were having a hard time filling some hourly craft positions (up from 70% in 2017), while 10% reported no difficulty and 9% had no openings. In addition, 56% said they were having a hard time filling some salaried positions (up from 38% in 2017), while 14% reported no difficulty and 29% had no openings. For all but one of 20 specific craft positions listed in the survey, a majority of respondents whose firms employ that craft said filling positions was harder than last year. (The sole exception was traffic control personnel, with 47% of respondents saying it was harder to fill than last year.) The hardest craft positions to fill were pipelayers, reported as harder to fill than a year ago by 72% of firms that currently employ them; sheet metal workers, reported by 68%; carpenters and concrete workers, each cited by 67%; cement masons and pipefitters/welders, each cited by 66%. For each craft, fewer than 4% of respondents said filling the position was easier than last year, while 7-16% said they hired without difficulty.

Among 10 salaried positions, 49% of respondents said project manager/supervisor positions were harder to fill than last year; engineers, 38%; and estimating personnel, 36%. More firms than in 2017 increased base pay rates for hourly craft workers (62%, vs. 50% in 2017) and salaried workers (56%, vs. 43% in 2017) because of difficulty filling positions. To add to their labor supply, firms turned to: engaging with career-building programs (48%, vs. 27% in 2017); craft staffing firms (32%, vs. 22% in 2017); executive and non-craft worker search firms (29%, vs. 23% in 2017). To replace workers or skills, 25% of firms used methods to reduce onsite worktime (e.g., lean construction, virtual construction or offsite fabrication) and 25% used labor-saving equipment (e.g., drones, robots, 3-D printers, laser- or GPS-guided equipment). Nearly half of respondents said costs have been higher than anticipated (44%) and/or have taken longer than anticipated (46%), while 47% have put higher prices into bids or contracts and 27% have put in longer times.

Abell, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, learned the tile business from ground up, working at Mees Tile & Marble in Lexington, Kentucky. There, he started off in the warehouse, then moved on to contractor sales, and A&D sales, ultimately becoming branch manager. He will be relocating from Indianapolis to the Milwaukee area, soon to be working out of Bostik Americas Technology & Business Center headquarters.