Whether it’s introductory programs like Construction Ready, corporate-backed skills training or certifications, apprenticeships or degrees through the state’s network of technical colleges, efforts across the state are taking aim at the persistent shortage of construction workers. Skilled Baby Boomers are retiring and the Great Recession and COVID-19 pandemic also walloped Georgia’s construction labor base.
But Georgia has also kept on building, meaning construction wages are rising as private and public-sector projects compete for labor.
In Georgia, there were around 221,500 people employed in the industry in June 2023, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is an almost 4% increase from last June, with national levels experiencing around a 2.6% increase during this time period. As of July, the national industry had grown by 198,000 jobs in the past year.
Georgia is also seeing a boom in construction for manufacturing projects, such as electric vehicle plants by Hyundai Motor Group and Rivian and their suppliers. A backlog of projects has driven demand up, particularly in Atlanta where businesses and individuals alike are continuing to move into the city.
Kyle Dockus, the business development manager at CCS Construction Staffing, a national temp construction hiring agency, said that Atlanta has the second-largest demand for temporary workers right now behind Charleston, S.C. Despite concerns during and after the pandemic that construction was slowing down, Dockus said that right now construction in Atlanta is “really at its peak.”
“There is a lot of construction going on out there and a lot of jobs that need to be filled,” Dockus said. “There’s not a lot of people going into the trades right now.”
In the Atlanta area, Dockus said that he currently sees the highest demand within the commercial, industrial and federal sectors of the industry. Federal work is particularly challenged by the requirement of background checks, he said.
With rising demand for workers has come rising wages. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage of construction workers in Georgia rose from $27.26 in May 2020 to $31.37 in May of this year. Dockus said he saw the standard temp worker hourly wage rise from $12 in 2020 to $18 this summer. Additionally, Dockus said average hourly wages increase in specialty areas, like electrical work.
“I can’t stress enough how crazy, or just how quickly, the wages have started to rise,” Dockus said.
The Construction Ready program offers participants the opportunity to earn several certifications, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration training.
Program participant Terrance Monk said that learning about safety procedures has been the most valuable part of the program so far, and he said he’s hoping to work as a safety consultant after the program concludes.
“If I do anything, it’s going to be safety because I realized it’s very important,” Monk said.
Of the 16 participants in the current Construction Ready program, each is likely to receive at least four job offers at an upcoming job fair, said Construction Ready Senior Director of Recruitment Luke Fletcher.
Credit: Michael Blackshire
Credit: Michael Blackshire
Dockus also said that there is an increasing demand for younger people to take on management roles, as contracting company owners are retiring. With many younger people opting for four-year college programs over trade school, Dockus said that some are going back to learn the trade basics needed to for a management role.
“Having the experience just using power tools, welding, stuff like that, it’s not very common and it’s pretty hard to find right now just in terms of people who can do those things and do it confidently,” Dockus said.
Several of the Construction Ready program participants expressed an interest in management roles. Andrika Daniels is participating in the program in addition to receiving her bachelor’s degree in construction management. She said that the safety training was a big draw to the program. Another participant, Dominique Watson, is also looking into management roles. She has previous construction experience and said that the opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of industry safety standards and meet with potential employers has been “very informative.”
“It’s a very vast field and forever growing, so I do feel confident that there will always be opportunity,” Watson said.
-Staff writer Michael E. Kanell contributed to this report.