A study focusing exclusively on design and construction professionals and trade workers, the McGraw-Hill Construction report entitled "Construction Industry Workforce Shortages: Role of Certification, Training and Green Jobs in Filling the Gaps.", highlights concerns about skilled worker shortages and the promise of green building.
Skilled workers have left the industry as a result of the economic downturn, an aging workforce and an insufficient pipeline of younger workers, according to the new study released at the AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition this week in Washington, DC.
The study shows that 69% of architect, engineer, and contractor (AEC) professionals expect skilled workforce shortages in next three years; 32% of AEC are concerned about a shortage of specialty trade contractors by 2014; 49% of the general contractors are concerned about finding skilled craft workers by 2017, and 37% of architect and engineering firms are concerned about finding experienced workers. Skilled green workers are in even more demand; 86% of architects and engineers and 91% of contractors are finding too few green skilled employees.
Facing the loss of employees in the construction professions, industry professionals are worried they may have lost those skills, and uncertainty about interest by the next generation raises concerns about being able to fill gaps in the future. In a separate but related survey McGraw-Hill Construction conducted for the American Institute of Architects (AIA), 79% of architecture firms are not sure the U.S. student pipeline will be sufficient to replace those leaving the profession, a problem exacerbated by the 76% of U.S. architecture students/recent graduates who would consider working abroad.
"The downturn in construction activity may be masking a serious problem in the construction industry workforce," said Harvey Bernstein, vice president, Industry Insights and Alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction. "But the rise of green jobs and more availability of training and professional certifications can help to attract interest in the professions and make firms more competitive."
Green jobs represent a transformational shift in the construction industry. McGraw-Hill Construction found that 35% of architects, engineers and contractors report having green jobs today, representing nearly 650,000 jobs. That share is expected to increase over the next three years, with 45% of all design and construction jobs being green by 2014.
McGraw-Hill Construction defines "green jobs" as those involving more than 50% of work on green projects (defined by McGraw-Hill Construction as projects meeting LEED or another credible green building certification program, or one that is energy- and water-efficient and also addresses indoor air quality and/or resource efficiency) or designing and installing uniquely green systems. Focusing on the construction professions exclusively, this definition excludes support or administrative professionals and manufacturing, production or transportation-related services.
This growth of green may help draw more young professionals into the industry. For example, the study also reveals that 62% of trade firms are concerned their profession does not appeal to the younger generation and 42% of architects report the same. However, the younger generation reports a strong commitment to sustainability, with 63% of architecture students saying they would engage in sustainable design out of a personal responsibility. This suggests that as green rises, so too may interest by young professionals in the design and construction fields of practice.