by Andrea Palmer
People in the building trades and conctruction industry continue to say there is a shortage of skilled labor.
Kevin Maynard, owner of Kevin Maynard Construction in Fort Ann, said older skilled workers are aging out of the industry and there are not enough younger workers to replace them.
“It’s hard to find young people who want to learn the trade and want to do it well. Everyone who has talent, already has a secure job,” said Maynard. “We do everything with all of our heart, and we want to find guys that follow suit with that level of work quality.”
“It’s impacted how much work I can take on because I just don’t have the manpower,” he said.
Maynard stated the shortage has increased the need for full-service construction companies to use sub-contractors. But those sub-contracting companies are facing the same shortage in skilled workers.
Sonny Bonacio, owner of Bonacio Construction in Saratoga Springs, works closely with the BOCES construction, skilled trade and management programs. Bonacio Construction offers paid internships and currently has ive in that program.
“It takes a long time to cultivate young staff,” he said. “We tour people on our job, take them out on job sites, pull them in for summer work and paid internships. We have them come back. We’ve been cultivating people for three and four years before they get out of college.”
The shortage of workers has waylaid the completion of projects, he said.
“It’s harder for construction companies to stay on schedule. We’re always short a couple guys in each division. We have a full-time recruiter in HR who, literally non-stop, is on the hunt for plumbers, HVAC technicians, welders, metal fabricators, project managers … Pretty much every role across the board, we are always interviewing for,” said Bonacio.
Both BOCES and SUNY Adirondack offer career programs in construction management and the skilled building trades.
“There was a point in time when people didn’t think the building trades were a worthy career. That mentality has slowly been turned around,” said Bonacio.
Paul Lambert, project manager at Bonacio Construction, is the company’s BOCES liaison. In an effort to address the shortage, Lambert began speaking five years ago in the BOCES classrooms located in Saratoga Springs and Hudson Falls.
“The bulk of the skilled workforce is aging out of the industry as they approach their mid-50s and 60s, and there aren’t enough younger workers to fill the need,” said Lambert.
“There’s this stigma that kids have to go to the four-year college route. We’re not promoting not going to college. We’re promoting you can be a skilled tradesman and have a good life for yourself,” said Lambert.
“For example, an entry level position as a skilled framer holds an annual salary of around $45,000. A framing contractor owning his own business may make $200,000 or so in our region,” said Lambert.
Bonacio Construction and the Saratoga Builders Association are partners in an initiative to encourage people finishing high school to consider a career in the construction industry. The collaborative effort is creating task forces and committees to encourage younger people to consider careerw in the building trades. Curtis Lumber has joined in as well.
“It’s a major problem facing the new construction and remodeling industry. It’s tough for builders to find skilled help,” said Barry Potoker, executive director of the Saratoga Builders Association,which has over 180 members representing all areas of the construction industry.
Potoker said new construction and remodeling projects are not getting done as quickly as they could because of the shortage of workers. Remodelers and builders are busy. Housing inventory is low in the current seller’s market, causing some would-be homebuyers to rebuild and remodel their current property.
“We want young folks to at least consider a vocation in the construction fields. I don’t think those fields are given much thought in high school. The four-year college route is part of it. It’s engrained in our society,” said Potoker.
A career in the construction fields can be part of a college pathway. Potoker stated many young people don’t know they can go to college for a construction related vocation.
“They don’t know how much they can make, what the starting salary is and what the median salaries are for the construction trades. There’s also a lot less student debt with that route,” said Potoker.
The Saratoga Builders Association awards student scholarships every year to students going into the construction trades.”
We’ve put together profiles of what people make in the industry. Architects, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, painters … All of those roles are in short supply right now,” said Potoker.
Those interested in a career in the skilled construction trades can find more information at www.saratogabuilders.org/careers. They can also reach out to BOCES in Saratoga Springs and Hudson Falls, as well as Bonacio Construction.
by Andrea Palmer