February 19, 2013

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CONSTRUCTION

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Article

CONSTRUCTION

February 19, 2013

We have struggled—not so much with getting masons, because the competition is slowly going down. The people kind of wander towards us as we put it out there. But the labor to start out at the bottom and work their way up is getting difficult to find.

We’ve struggled for two and a half months in hiring. One problem is the wages that we can offer in order to be competitive. And we’re dealing with a Hispanic labor market that we can’t hire, and we’re dealing with people who still are unemployed and still can’t pass a drug test.

SNOW: Now is a good time to put the message out about what our industry is, what it has to offer. In Utah, construction workers are paid an average of $42,900, which is 7 percent higher than the average private sector wage in the state. Is that message getting out in the industry? Is it getting out to the folks?

As you look at your kids and they’re coming up through the industry, is this such a bad place to work? And then as you look at the opportunities for going into management—project managers and estimators and project engineers probably earn an average of $85,000 a year. Not a bad gig. And it’s pretty darn fun to see what you build.

WADMAN: In the last six months, we’ve had two high school interns shadowing project managers, estimators. That’s been a really positive experience for us. And also those kids that we’ve had walk around our office on a daily basis for half a day.

It’s something we want to be more involved in going forward—mentoring those kids and letting them see what is available in construction on a management level. Maybe we can develop an app or construction video game that would help those kids really get a gist of what we’re doing in the industry. We’ve got to find a way to bring our construction industry to their level so that they can identify the value and the opportunity in our industry.

GOLDING: Something that I’ve done, working with our HR director, is put a presentation together with those statistics and given classes at the High School Counselors Association Conferences. Those are the people who are going to guide where the students are going to go. We started doing this a couple of years ago. It’s low-hanging fruit that we, as an industry and as an association, through the AGC, might want to pursue even more as we try to get our message out there.

BLANCK: This downturn has really hurt our industry. Even as we come out of it, we’re still going to pay the price for more years to come. Wages have gone down or they’ve remained stagnant across the board, which has people in the industry saying, “Don’t do it. Don’t go into construction.”

Second, our industry has been pushed to the extreme in terms of hours worked, in terms of scheduling and expectations. We’re still meeting just amazing schedules. We have amazing subcontractors; but you’re pushed to the limits across the board on every job. Some jobs are working 24 hours around the clock, and people are just being pushed. And they’re seeing no return. They’re seeing no increase in wages.

Our younger workers feel like they’ve earned the experience, and they’re not being promoted. The opportunities haven’t been there for them, and there’s some frustration in our industry. That’s going to carry over into the next generation.

Until we have more opportunities, we’re going to face a lot of frustrations within our own companies, from the craft people all the way up to superintendents who haven’t  had a wage increase in five years. That’s frustrating for all of us.

The cost of material supplies impacts everyone from homeowners who want to do improvements to the big commercial developers. What are you seeing on that end?

KILGORE: From the ready-mix side, there is an increase that starts January 1. We’ve sent out a letter notifying people that there’s going to be a ready-mix increase of $6 to $7 a yard. That’s just where it’s at. Suppliers have increased cement per cost and it’s going to be passed on.

From the asphalt oil side, we’re predicting that it’s going to go up a little bit. It’s either going to be flat or going up.

TEMPEST: Poly and steel prices are ticking up. Not enormously, but they’re ticking up.

We’re seeing some pretty clear signs that insurance rates are on the rise. Are you seeing this?

SNOW: The volatile line right now is workers’ compensation. That’s where the insurers are seeing the upside down loss ratios, to the degree that they are increasing prices in the workers’ compensation. For those who are aggressive with safety and controlling costs of claims with their people, those increases are moderated somewhat.

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