By Doug Ford
There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in what lies ahead as we embark on 2022 however, when you look at the construction and the building materials industry a few things are “for sure.” The broken supply chain, lack of available workers and fallout from COVID are all factors that will continue to challenge us.
Like many industries, the supply chain for building materials and related products is going through a very difficult period in both domestic and foreign products. Experts believe the crisis will extend beyond 2022 with no immediate relief in sight.
Current delivery delays can extend the build time on an average single-family home by three-plus months and will get worse as we enter the winter season here in the Northeast. This is extremely unfortunate since there is a lot of interest in new homes and a shortage of available homes on the market.
The fallout from lack of product and the demands on housing are in part due to the influx of millennials entering the market. This has caused a significant increase in home pricing which adds another level of complexity. Interest rates remain low, but all other trends impacting the real estate market allow the advantage to remain with the sellers.
The lack of labor in the construction industry has been growing for decades and is now competing with many other segments for workers. A recent statistic reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce construction index stated that 92 percent of contractors have reported a difficulty finding workers and of those, 42 percent have turned down work as a result.
Simply put, many people aren’t aware of career opportunities in the trades. This is a topic that the Saratoga Builders Association in conjunction with many local partners have been addressing for the past three years. Until recently, schools have focused on college as the primary pathway for most students.
Recent efforts highlighting careers in the trades, compounded with issues brought to light resulting from the COVID pandemic have created new hope for the construction industry labor shortage. Parents and graduating students are uncomfortable traveling to larger schools, remote learning does not provide the same experience for college students, and yet the fees remain the same.
This has opened the door to educate school staff, students and parents about opportunities in the trades for those who don’t find this new way of learning appealing. The pathways to a lucrative career in the trades are diverse and numerous, including options directly out of high school. Parents have formed beliefs about the trades based on their growing up from many years ago – long hours pounding hammers and nails.
Work in the trades is very different today. Good starting salaries with great opportunities for advancement and high income, benefit packages, job security and tech-savvy skills are just a few examples that contribute to many options for rewarding careers.
The last thing “for sure” is that COVID has and will continue to have a significant impact in 2022. One of the biggest COVID related challenges has been the instability of the workforce. Fear of catching COVID, required quarantining, and the vaccine mandates have all lead to a lot of missed time by workers.
This has also been complicated by the lack of daycare and schools being forced to require remote learning. COVID has forced the construction industry (historically traditional in thought and slow to change) to embrace technology to a much higher degree. This brings a new attraction for younger workers, including females who have typically stayed away. According to the NAHP women only make up 10.9 percent of the construction workforce.
The timing is right, and the industry will greatly benefit from influx of female workers.
Most would agree it has been a tough time. Conflict, loss, setbacks, and challenges seem to be the norm. There are many more unknowns that we must navigate this year however, I am extremely optimistic that 2022 will be the year we emerge from the COVID pandemic. We will have the opportunity to benefit from all we have learned having gone through it, “for sure.”