News & Updates

Weather Conditions are the Cause for Low Builder Confidence

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While the harsh winter weather has made it tough for contractors to complete construction jobs on time, it has also made life difficult for home builders. The recently released National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index showed sales expectations for newly-built, single-family homes has dramatically decreased throughout the country. The research showed builder perceptions have fallen to a reading of 46, which means more leaders in the industry would say that the current marketplace is "poor."

"Significant weather conditions across most of the country led to a decline in buyer traffic last month," said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the NAHB. "Builders also have additional concerns about meeting ongoing and future demand due to a shortage of lots and labor."

The lack of skilled workers in the industry has been a problem for more than decade, which means it may be time for construction companies to get serious about recruiting younger workers back to their firms. The Great Recession caused many millennials and recent graduates to look for work in new fields, which was the reason for a rise in the average age of contractors and laborers, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Construction Firms Need More Manpower
While the weather conditions have caused home builders to pump the brakes on their sales forecasts in recent weeks, they still must have skilled workers to help them complete the projects on the horizon. Even though builder confidence is down, demand for new homes is still strong. The falling sales number is a cause for concern; failing to have a talented workforce can be even more damaging in the long run.

"Clearly, constraints on the supply chain for building materials, developed lots and skilled workers are making builders worry," said David Crowe, chief economist of the NAHB. "The weather also hurt retail and auto sales and this had a contributing effect on demand for new homes."

When the demand for new homes returns back to steady levels, Crowe predicts that home builders won't be able grow their workforce right away. He told The Dallas Morning News that it will take time, and some businesses should expect for it to be a struggle. Nonetheless, he is confident that workers will return the industry if they need work.

Home Builders are Anticipating Tight Budgets
With the outlook for new construction is not looking favorable at the moment, many home builders will have to take a tepid approach to accepting projects into the upcoming year. Ted Wilson, a principal with Dallas-based housing analyst Residential Strategies, told the newspaper since current demand is low, it will be difficult for companies to raises the price for homes, even when equipment and labor costs are expected to grow.

"In addition to higher labor and materials prices, the next generation of lot prices will be somewhat higher in 2014, so builders are anticipating a tighter profit margin environment this year," Wilson said.


Construction Industry Set to Hire 100,000 Vets by 2019

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There's good news for military veterans seeking information on how to get a job in construction. An announcement at a recent conference sponsored by the U.S. Labor Department and Joining Forces, a nationwide effort launched by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, revealed that 100 construction companies and associations are planning to hire 100,000 veterans in the next five years.

These businesses are making the pledge to hire veterans because they feel a responsibility to pay back military members for their service, Mrs. Obama wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal. It is often difficult for veterans to re-assimilate into the workforce after being away on duty for a number of years. For these individuals, working at construction firms makes a lot of sense because many veterans are well-versed in how to operate heavy machinery and are comfortable working in teams for one common goal.

"These businesses will also be ensuring that they have the qualified employees they need to keep growing and creating new jobs and strengthening the economy for decades to come," The First Lady wrote. "They will be sending a clear message that we honor those who've sacrificed for us, and are determined to serve them as well as they have served our country."

This Commitment Comes at the Right Time
The construction jobs outlook for all U.S. workers is positive. Based on government data, the industry added 48,000 positions in January, and companies are becoming more confident in the nation's economy. Additionally, employees with in-demand skill sets are being sought out by many construction companies. This is why Obama and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez are so excited about the potential of veterans filling open roles at construction businesses so seamlessly.

"Veterans are invaluable to the construction industry," Larry Melton, an executive with Bechtel Corporation, a firm associated with the movement, said, according to the first lady. "Men and women who serve in the military often have the traits that are so critical to our success: agility, discipline, integrity and the drive to get the job done right."

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics projections showed construction jobs are expected to grow 2.6 percent annually through 2022, and industry experts believe that 1.6 million jobs will be added by the end of that period. With many construction company leaders stating that veterans are some of their hardest-working and most highly skilled staff members, it seems the pledge these firms have made is one that will prove to be mutually beneficial.

Veterans' Qualifications Expand Beyond their Resumes
If veterans were to list all of the skills they acquired while on their tour of duty on their resumes, they would stretch far beyond just a couple of pages, according to the fist lady. Obama wrote that the Armed Forces are often asked to master large sets of advanced information, carry out complex operations and thrive in a team setting.

These are just a few of the reason why it makes sense for construction companies to add veterans to their workforce. Obama believes the construction industry can improve, thanks to the help of veterans, and help reduce employment problems for returning soldiers.

Construction Industry Continues to Add Jobs

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Many professionals struggling to figure out how to get a job in construction may not be asking themselves that question too much longer due to the most recent numbers from the Associated General Contractors of America. According to the research, construction companies hired roughly 15,000 new employees throughout February, bringing employment in the industry up to 5.94 million, its highest total in more than four years. Some of the hiring highlights include:

  • The residential construction sector added 1,700 workers in February
  • Nonresidential construction employment has increased by 12,700 jobs since January
  • The number of total nonfarm jobs grew 1.6 percent over the past month

"The rate of construction hiring has outpaced job growth in the overall economy for the past year," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "During that time, all construction segments have added workers."

The Demand For Qualified Workers Persists
While the construction industry continues to add workers, companies are still looking for professionals with top skill sets. Many firms are finding that their employees are not just leaving their businesses, but the field altogether. The research showed the number of of unemployed workers who last held jobs in the construction field has decreased by 1.34 million since February 2010. Construction companies must figure out a strategy to retain workers. Leveraging construction networking tools may be able to provide businesses with a forum to find the staff members they need more quickly than ever.

"While demand for construction employees is rising at a healthy clip, workers are still leaving the industry faster than they are being hired, a dynamic that may result in widespread worker shortages in the near future," Simonson said. "In the past four years, nearly a million experienced workers have left the industry for jobs in other sectors, retirement or school. They are no longer available for immediate recall to construction jobs."

Learn to Retain Employees at Construction Firms
Experts believe that it takes more than five times more money to hold onto an employee than to bring on new staff members. Keeping this in mind, it's important construction companies exhaust all options when trying to retain their current workforce. Thomas Giddens, senior vice president and director of sales at Aflac Construction wrote a few tips in an article for Business Owner that enterprise leaders should remember when coming up with efforts to keep their employees happy:

  • Offer voluntary or supplemental insurance: Construction workers are at higher risk of injury than staff members in nearly every other industry. Business owners must understand this and ensure that their workforce is covered. This is a great opportunity to give employees access to voluntary or supplemental insurance. It can be offered at no cost to the business, and provides workers with some security if they are physically unable to do their jobs.
  • Put together a benefits package: Employees like to know that their business cares about them. By providing workers with an extensive benefit package, it not only creates a happier workforce, but it also can lead to higher levels of productivity. Business owners should take their time when deciding on staff benefits.


Construction Industry Aims to Reduce Environmental Impact

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This past week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report regarding greenhouse gas emissions' impact on the environment. Based on this assessment, the U.S. Green Building Council concluded the construction industry must play a role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

This sector contributes 23 percent of total air pollution, 50 percent of climate change gases, 40 percent of drinking water population and half of all landfill waste, according to a report conducted by Wilmott Dixon Group. The building sector is taking steps to leave a lighter footprint on the environment by turning to green building design, Green Building Solutions reported. Sustainable design includes conserving resources and investing in energy-efficient products, from production to transportation and installation.

Energy-Efficient Construction Equipment Reduces Emissions 
Last month, Volvo Construction Equipment released a new crawler excavator that the company states reduces operating costs and improves fuel efficiency. Dubbed the Volvo EC380E excavator, it consumes less fuel, Construction Equipment Guide reported. 

According to the manufacturer, the machine provides a 9-percent improvement in fuel efficiency. The excavator reduces emissions by automatically shutting down the engine when it hasn't been used for about five minutes. Additionally, it also consumes lower levels of fuel because of its D13 Stage IV/Tier 4 Final engine, which is a new electro-hydraulic control system

Construction Industry Embraces LEED Certification
Lorman, a continuing education provider, recommends contractors develop buildings that need less energy to operate. Construction companies can abide by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design national standards. To construct an LEED-certified building, architects, construction companies, contractors and manufacturers can minimize environmental impact by considering the size and location of windows to maximize natural light and determining the site location based on the path of the sun and the quantity of existing trees. Other strategies include properly insulating the building, installing solar panels on the roof and incorporating a natural heating system. 

With energy-efficient equipment and sustainable buildings, the construction sector has an array of opportunities to mitigate harmful emissions. 


Careers in Construction Management are Growing

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Over the next decade, general contractors will be in high demand because of population and business growth, as well as the need to improve national infrastructure. The job outlook for construction managers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Construction managers, also known as general contractors or project managers, prepare budgets, interpret contracts, collaborate with other construction specialists, comply with legal requirements and attend to emergency situations, among other related job duties. In 2012, the median salary of a construction manager was $82,790 per year, according to the BLS.

For those interested in pursuing this career path, U.S. News recommends earning a bachelor's degree in construction science or construction management and getting hands-on construction experience. However, some have secured this position without a bachelor's degree, just by gaining the experience and knowledge necessary to perform the duties successfully. Various construction organizations, such as the American Institute of Construction or the Construction Management Association of America, offer certification for those pursuing the career path, according to Construction Management.

Since construction managers handle a variety of tasks, it's important for them to possess certain qualities. From analytical skills to time-management skills, general contractors must be able to develop a project strategy, solve problems as they arise and meet deadlines. While technical skills are important, CIO indicates that the best project managers understand the importance of having top-notch leadership and people skills. Successful project managers need to have the ability to inspire and motivate stakeholders and sponsors. Additionally, being an effective communicator is important, according to the Houston Chronicle. From writing emails to requests for information, construction managers typically field conflicting requests under strict deadlines.

For more information on construction management careers, visit O-NET OnLine