Building Industry Addresses Labor Shortage

December 8
6:50 PM 2016

The industry of building is thriving in Central Indiana right now, with thousands of people building brand new homes.

Single-family permits in the first 10 months of 2016 are up 14 percent compared to this time last year, according to the Indiana Builders Association.

However, the industry is grappling with a labor shortage, impacting just about every skilled subcontractor-carpenters, framing crews, bricklayers, plumbers, painters, roofers, electricians, HVAC, and excavators.

"It's a ripple impact," said Steve Lains, CEO of the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis (BAGI).  "You not only have to wait longer to have your home completed, because of the labor shortage, costs increase."

Lains said years ago, the industry was building 15,000 a year.

"When the recession hit, we went to 3,000 houses a year," said Lains. "A lot of people left the industry and found jobs in other sectors, and once burned, it's hard to come back."

BAGI is trying a new approach to attract workers to the industry and to get people interested in building at a young age.

They launched a pilot program, the Lego Builders Club, with Westfield-Washington schools.

Currently, 250 children are enrolled in the extracurricular program throughout the district.

"This group is actually really fun," said Rylan Wheeler, a 4th grader participating in Lego Builders Club. "It's a good way to express yourself and have team work. I want to be an artist with houses."

Rylan and other students create blueprints before they can build their houses.

Building industry and school leaders want students to know that college is not the only way to become successful.

"You don't necessarily have to get a lot of college debt accumulated before you go off into the world," said Scott Williams, Washington Woods Elementary Principal.  "So many jobs don't even exist yet, and we want to encourage kids to be thinkers and collaborators and this is a great way to practice that too."

Many skilled labor jobs pay $50,000 a year, and half require only on-the-job training, said Lains.

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