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Construction worker shortages causing variety of problems in Houston area

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our area and its economy are growing so quickly right now that construction companies are having a hard time keeping up with demand. It's difficult for them to hire enough people, and that's creating a variety of problems.

Worker shortages are here and driving up wages, so projects like new office towers and even home remodeling is going to cost more.

It's the sound of a booming economy. But the workers needed to finish these projects are becoming harder to find and more expensive to hire.

"The wages will -- they have to -- go up because there is shortage of skilled workers," said Jerry Nevlud with the Association General Contractors.

One reason it's hard to find skilled workers is the energy boom is employing the people who would be building offices and homes.

"Truck drivers are making six figures going down to the Eagle Ford Shale and it is putting real pressure on the construction industry in general," said Mike Holland with Marek Construction.

On some job sites, workers are being enticed away by higher wages being offered from nearby projects desperate for hired hands.

"A concrete guy making X dollars an hour, they desperately need workers a mile down the road, they will pay them a percentage more to move and come work on their job," Nevlud said.

Another issue is there is a lack of skilled young people entering the construction. The industry is creating the construction career coalition designed to encourage high school students to enter construction fields and at least three local school districts are dedicating new schools to technical trades.

"In the schools, we need to have a viable vocational path. Right now with the college-only track we have greatly cut off other options," Holland said.

Industry officials tell us the most skilled workers are on large construction jobs, leaving less skilled workers for things like home improvement projects and home building, so the lack of workers is hitting all construction sectors.

Find Jeff on Facebook at ABC13JeffEhling or on Twitter at @jeffehlingabc13

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