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Professional Skills Gap Hurts Housing Market

The housing market has been recovering, but the reason for the increase in the price of homes isn’t all good news.

A growing shortage of homebuilders and home improvement professionals due to a major skills gap is delaying building projects, shrinking building inventories and inflating the cost of homes and home-related projects. The skills necessary to complete this type of work are quickly diminishing.

A report from Fortune says that the reason for this has been building up for years, starting with the fact that students are now encouraged to prepare for college degrees, instead of acquiring vocational skills. Emphasizing the college degree in schools also furthers the notion that skilled labor entails “physically demanding, yet mindless work.”

Also a contributor of the sales gap was the 2008 financial crisis that sent construction industry workers running for more stable industries. This resulted in a loss of 60 percent of the workforce, according to the U.S. Labor Statistics and Census bureaus. Additionally, diminishing immigration has resulted in the loss of more than half a million Mexican-born construction industry workers since 2007, according to a recent report by John Burns Real Estate Consulting Inc.

An expanding generational gap is also to blame. According to the U.S. Census, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds hired in the construction sector declined from approximately 18 percent at its peak before 2006 to 13 percent in 2012-2013, only to be replaced by workers 45 to 55 years old. As a result, the percentage of older workers in the industry is higher than that of all other industries, and older workers are aging out of the workforce.

The National Association of Home Builders reports that the construction industry remains more than 1 million workers short of the peak, 2006 workforce levels.

“As a home services CEO, I see first-hand the impacts of the labor gap on our industry, our economy and our continued quality of life,” Chris Terrill of HomeAdvisor says in the Fortune article. “Regrettably, I also see that it’s only going to get worse if we don’t make it better. With fewer migrant workers entering the workforce and an increasing number of aging skilled workers making their exit, there’s a need to attract and engage a healthy workforce to take over the essential roles they’re leaving behind. Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to foster an interest in skilled labor among the nation’s younger workers.”

Terrill suggests three ways to fix the skills gap:

  • Reconnect the construction industry with the education system to promote skilled labor as a long-term career option.
  • Endorse the flexibility and growth possibility of the industry among young entrepreneurs.
  • Position skilled laborers as vital craftsmen that millennial workers may strive to be.

“Whatever we do to address the skilled labor shortage, it’s imperative that we do something—and that we do something soon,” says Terrill. “Skilled labor has reached a breaking point, and if we continue to do nothing, our houses—so long as we can afford to keep them—will literally fall to pieces.”

About Hilary Welter

As marketing and research coordinator, it’s Hilary’s duty to keep retailers informed about NRHA products and services and to help coordinate industry research projects. Additionally, Hilary is the voice behind NRHA’s and Hardware Retailing’s social media accounts. She appreciates a good book, spicy food, well-made horror films, craft beer and exploring new places near and far.

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