As some business sectors report the tight labor market loosening, the construction industry feels the squeeze. According to the Associated Builders and Contractors, the industry needs to attract more than a half million additional workers on top of the normal hiring pace in 2023 to meet the demand for labor. The state of Texas added the most construction jobs in the US at nearly 35,000.
Escalating the urgency of labor needs, Texas is growing, gaining more than nine million new residents between 2000 and 2022, according to the US Census Bureau, which is more than any other state and almost three million more than the second-highest gainer, Florida. This population hike highlights the need for the state to update its aging infrastructure while also building new structures to keep up with the influx of residents. Texas is making strides to build, contributing more than 20 percent of national commercial real estate spending in 2022.
To continue to attract and support multinational companies, top-notch talent, and innovators, Texas needs to keep pace with infrastructure needs. Placemaking improvements are slated for all the state’s major metropolitan areas, including airport improvements, flood mitigation systems, hospitals, higher education systems and more. Including highway improvements, residential housing, and major city parks, Texas’ plan to welcome continued growth broadens to reveal a bigger picture.
However, without skilled craft workers, the infrastructure updates and new builds will fall behind. Whether directly linked to the skilled trades or not, businesses are impacted by the craft workers’ contributions. When businesses advocate for the trades and support that career path, business becomes more sustainable in the state.
Businesses can better support the trades by promoting organizations that prepare the workforce. A few examples of organizations in the major metro areas are Construction Career Collaborative in Houston, which brings awareness to the wealth of career opportunities available in construction; SA WORX in San Antonio is a partner with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation to implement the Talent Pipeline Management framework to help source talent for in-demand jobs; and Pathways to Work in Dallas helps develop work-ready training programs in growing industries like construction and health care.
For those businesses with a direct tie to the trades, the opportunities are more abundant. The ACE (architecture, construction, engineering) Mentor Program is national and develops a talent pipeline of people excited to leave their mark on the construction industry. Additionally, Texas is home to first-class technical schools. Campuses like Collin College in Allen offer construction management courses, and higher education partnerships, speakers’ series, and intern-to-work programs through these institutions strengthen the skilled labor pipeline to support the state’s growth.
These same principles hold true for business leaders who want to find skilled talent in their own industries. Leadership needs to develop the talent needed. Job shadowing, internships, and mentorship programs, either in-house or through established trade or community organizations, are an important avenue to encourage talent from across the state. This could take shape for organizations by partnering with multi-institution universities, like Texas A&M and the University of Texas, or local community and technical colleges. Through these partnerships, students learn about avenues available within the industry and how to make the most of their chosen career paths.
The bottom line is: Involvement is crucial. To get ahead of the needs of this ever-growing state, business leaders must make their communities welcoming and help guide the local workforce into upskilling and reskilling opportunities, support alternative learning options, and provide avenues for success within their own organizations. By doing this, Texas will continue to be a desirable place to do business, and the talent pipeline will continue to grow.
Dennis Yung serves as the executive vice president and general manager for Skanska’s Houston and North Texas building operations.