A quick drive through downtown Tampa and surrounding areas is all you need to see that construction activity is rapidly on the rise. According to a Feb. 7, 2016 Tampa Tribune article, there are currently more than a dozen high-rise or mid-rise residential projects are planned for downtown Tampa, with at least three more planned for downtown St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, the $1 billion overhaul of Tampa International Airport is in its second year; Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has proposed a high-profile $2 billion mixed-use project over 10 years; and in 2015, Port Tampa Bay unveiled plans for a $1.7 billion mixed-use project at Channelside.
That’s the good news. The big question mark in all this is who will actually build these current and planned residential towers, office buildings and retail projects, given the severe shortage of skilled construction workers that currently plagues this market.
On the surface, the numbers can be deceiving. A recent Association of General Contractors (AGC) survey found that construction employment increased by 11% in the Tampa Bay area from March 2015 to March 2016. The area added 5,100 construction jobs last year, ranking it 51st in job growth among the nation’s 358 metropolitan statistical areas. These figures reflect a major bounce-back from recessionary conditions throughout much of Florida. According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida added 28,600 construction jobs to grow its labor force to 441,700 in 2015, second only to California.
Yet the National Center for Construction Education and Research’s Construction Labor Market Analyzer estimates that Florida must increase the statewide number of construction jobs to 500,000 by October 2018.
In the Tampa Bay area, there simply aren’t currently enough skilled construction workers to accommodate current and planned projects. Jack Jarrell, business manager for the Ironworkers Local 397 union in Tampa, stated in the Tribune article that the local shortage of skilled trades extends across the board, from carpenters to ironworkers to electricians to welders. In particular, the shortage is characterized by a lack of young construction workers.
What to do? In order to bring more young construction workers into the workforce, companies must focus on recruiting directly out of high school. One way to do this is by encouraging students to attend trade schools.
Vocational and trade schools are increasingly popular among young adults who want to fast-track into well-paying and skilled careers. Adults who seek to advance in their current career or even change careers altogether are turning to vocational and trade schools. Course studies are specific to certain trades, including auto repair, hair dressing, information technology, and yes—construction.
Many companies are focusing on recruiting students directly out of high school, encouraging them to attend trade schools as an alternative to college. In February, an event was held by Tampa’s Mayor Bob Buckhorn and 40 Tampa Bay area businesses to show the importance that skilled laborers play in Tampa’s booming construction market. Approximately 700 Hillsborough County Public School students attended the event, many of whom were already taking trade-based classes in school. Attending events like this will give companies a chance to encourage students to enter the construction industry, and will even serve as a recruiting tool.
Another tool to recruit young construction workers is offering employees partial or full scholarships to trade schools. Along with raising morale, this allows current employees to develop their skillset, and it also encourages young workers to join the company.
Proper recruiting of both experienced and new skilled workers is vital for companies looking to meet the rising demand for construction firms in the Tampa Bay area.
You can learn more about Skoda Minotti’s real estate and construction business at skodaminotti.com, or you may reach Nick Kosmela at (813) 386-3876.