There's a clear consensus among industry experts and economists that the construction industry will continue to show gains in 2017. According to Robert Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics, the industry is moving into a more âmature phaseâ of expansion rather than a period of decline, with more of a measured upturn than a boom.
National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and American Institute of Architects (AIA) forecasts agree with the Dodge Construction Outlook. Anirban Basu of Sage Policy Group predicts nonresidential construction spending growth will continue, with an estimated increase in the range of 3-4 percent. It will be led by privately financed projects with commercial construction at the forefront. The U. S. builders boosted spending on construction projects in November, pushing activity to the highest level in more than a decade. It led to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.18 trillion, the highest since the 2006 boom.
The proposed infrastructure plan is another factor in the 2017 construction industry forecast. We need a sustainable infrastructure program that recognizes the importance of ongoing maintenance. However, job creation through the proposed plan will depend on Congressâ buy-in to the broad plan.
According to the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute 2016 reinforcing bar forecast, the demand for reinforcing ironworkers and U.S. rebar usage are expected to rise this year and continue to increase in the coming years.
The skilled labor shortage discussed last year is predicted to persist in 2017. Reuters recently reported refiners are facing a skilled labor shortage and competing for ironworkers and pipe fitters on a host of billion-dollar energy projects, including Cheniere Energyâs LNG export terminals and a new Dow Chemical petrochemical unit.
However, when it comes to ironworkers, that shortage is perceived. Thereâs no shortage of skilled ironworkers, rigging professionals or welders if you know where to look. When contractors partner with the Iron Workers (IW) at the planning stage, it has the facilities and capacity to supply ironworkers and scale up training to fit their needs. The IW invests millions each year in training and apprenticeship programs to ensure its ironworkers are the best in the industry. They are safety-conscious and come highly trained with necessary safeguards and guarantees.
The IW has upgraded its crane and rigging training and raised the bar by leading the industry in qualified rigger and signalperson certification programs. OSHA acknowledged the IW rigger and signalperson qualification programs, and they have received industry-wide recognition. The IW has 115 AWS Accredited Training Facilities and 157 training centers around the U.S. and Canada, and an army of 14,000 AWScertified welders in the U.S.
Apprenticeship programs present an effective solution to the skilled labor shortage. The IWâs earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program receives roughly 50,000 applications a year and averages 6,000 graduates a year. Still, contractors report difficulties in finding skilled ironworkers. Whatâs the missing link? Misconceptions about union ironworkers often hinder access to highly skilled labor. We must connect the missing link to address the perceived skilled labor shortage.
For more information, visit www.ironworkers.org or call (202) 383-4800.
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