Throughout the United States and the world, construction is booming with large skyscrapers, housing developments, retail centers, medical facilities, educational facilities, infrastructure projects, the Olympic site in Beijing, and an entirely new city in Dubai (sections of which are "carbon neutral"), being built. This has lead to a major strain on the resources required to properly plan and construct these projects. There has been a shortage of qualified labor at the managerial and construction level throughout the industry. The shortage of personnel has been further impacted by the retirement of the Baby Boomer Generation. The industry has developed training programs and recruitment programs to encourage workers to enter the industry. Years ago, there were probably five people to train one new person coming into the industry. Today, it is the reverse, one person to train five new people. In addition, more nonunion workers have entered the construction marketplace. The use of non-union labor presents opportunities for lower costs, without bureaucratic union work rules, but also comes with the challenges of safety and quality control, especially where there is a language barrier with the workers. In many cases, non-union personnel are immigrants to the United States who have come to the United States seeking employment and a better life for themselves and their families. They usually do not have good English language skills, and rely on their boss or foreman to communicate for them. They also come from countries and cultures where construction safety and quality control may not be a high priority, other than to build it fast. Often things get lost in the translation. Many states have right to work laws, such as Florida and Texas, where non-union personnel are performing the majority of the work.
We have also experienced a major shortage of raw materials used in the construction process such as structural steel, concrete, plywood, framing lumber, insulation, copper, glass, aluminum, and cement products. Many of these products have been shipped abroad to foreign countries such as China, India, and Dubai. These locations are also undergoing a massive construction program along with their own industrial revolutions, bringing them into the 21st century. This places a further demand on petrochemical resources, and results in higher prices for all goods and services throughout the world.
In addition to the shortage of raw materials, there is also a shortage of the manufacturing facilities to manufacture the finished construction products. Curtain wall manufacturers are in short supply, with only a handful of suppliers left. The concrete industry has a shortage of concrete mixing plants. The steel industry in the United States has been severely curtailed due to high labor rates, environmental considerations, unions, and outdated technology in the manufacturing process. Many of these products are manufactured abroad due to cheaper labor, no unions, little environmental regulations, and modern technology that other countries are using to manufacture construction materials. In a global economy, the United States has lost its competitive position in manufacturing.
The next 10 years promise to be challenging and demanding times for the construction industry to build the quantity and complexity of projects that are being planned. The projects are becoming even more challenging as available land to build on is becoming scarce. This results in construction taking place in a congested urban environment. The construction industry is slowly embracing technology to assist in building more efficiently and effectively. Only by attracting, retaining, and educating the construction personnel needed in the industry to manage and construct these massive projects, will we as an industry succeed in our mission to build, improve, and modernize the United States and the world.
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