The Skilled Labor Shortage As we approach 2020 it is becoming quite clear that all manufacturing industries will soon be facing severe manpower shortages. This includes the construction industry. The one-two punch of the Great Recession in 2007, followed by an educational shift at the high school level prioritizing college preparation over vocational-technical training has left the construction industry with an aging workforce. This is not a new problem. The manufacturing industries have been raising the alarm for years now. In 2014 a survey of the Associated General Contractors of America found that nearly 25% of construction companies had to turn down work because of manpower shortages, according to this report at Construction Dive. Masters Without Apprentices The industry has made some short-term gains by raising compensation to attract workers from softer industries such as the energy sector, but 40 or 50,000 new workers is nowhere near enough to transfer the knowledge base of aging and experienced construction men and women. These masters of the trades are now closing in on retirement age. With the lack of working apprentices on the job to learn the trades, we can anticipate high costs and serious delays when acquiring the services of plumbers, electricians, masons, and general contractors. ICF, Geothermal, and Solar-User Friendly Technology Insulated concrete form construction, geothermal HVAC, and solar power systems are all technologies with strong DIY (do-it-yourself) foundations. While none of these technologies can replace the need for skilled trades they all make better use of transferred skills. As GeothermalGenius explains at their website you can heat and cool with dirt, you will need some skills, but it’s not rocket science. The solar energy industry grew up around DIY innovation making it a more amenable technology for the transfer of skills without a long apprenticeship or extended vocational training requirement. Wholesale Solar reports that almost half of their customers install their own solar systems, though most hire an electrician for interior wiring and meter connection. ICF and the Consolidated Construction Concept The user-friendly technologies above will never completely eliminate the need for skilled and talented tradesmen. We can, however, foresee the day when an ICF crew of six workers cross-trained in the required “DIY” trades is able to accomplish 95% of the work required for any residential home or small commercial building independently. That will leave just 5% of the specialty work for those most highly paid professionals in the country…the electrician and the plumber.

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