Washington Contractors Continue To Struggle To Hire Enough Construction Workers

Aug 30, 2017

As construction booms, there continues to be a shortage of skilled crafts workers around the state, according to a yearly survey of general contractors.

The Associated General Contractors of America released results from the survey on Tuesday. About 79 percent of contractors in Washington state said they are having a hard time finding workers such as carpenters and concrete workers.

Many also said the training pipeline for those kinds of workers could be improved.

Some construction training programs, like the one at Bates Technical College in Tacoma, are actually seeing over-enrollment, according to Bates' south campus Vice President and Executive Dean Brandon Rogers.

"So we have been seeing some pressure and the employers are essentially at our doorsteps hiring students before they've completed," Rogers said.

The demand from employers and students has put some strains on the program. Rogers said they are relying more on external resources like grants and donations. They have also started doing more work-based training, where students can learn on the job.

Rogers also points out that "skilled workers" come with more than just technical knowledge.

"It's also knowing soft skills: How to show up on time, how to be reliable, how to call in when you're sick, how to be a good coworker, how to communicate professionally," he said.

The Associated General Contractors of Washington also advocates for more promotion and awareness of apprenticeship programs to help fill the labor gap.