Construction Industry Growing

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From roads to homes, construction hasn't stopped in Michigan.

"The demand is huge in the home building industry," said Dawn Crandall with the Skilled to Build Michigan Foundation. "We have members who cannot fulfill contracts due to the lack of labor."

And the Home Builders Association of Michigan expects a 25 percent increase in building permits this year.

"Now that the economy is coming back and the unemployment rate is lower, we're seeing an increase demand in people who want to purchase and build and remodel, so we need that labor market back," explained Crandall.

A labor market that lost a lot of its workforce in 2009.

"An aging workforce, coupled with an economic downturn of the last decade," Chris Fisher with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan. "It really resulted in people leaving the industry all together."

Back then, Michigan's construction unemployment rate was 25 percent. Now it's down to 5.4 percent.

"Michigan's experiencing one of the best construction rebounds in the country," said Fisher.

But finding qualified workers hasn't been easy.

"Every spring the same thing happens," said Jeff McCarthy with Operating Engineers Local 324. "We get calls from contractors looking for folks to work jobs, but the people just aren't there. We struggle to attract new kids every year, new members every year, new employees every year."

It's even harder to hire for highly skilled positions.

"Crane operators and things like that are sometimes the most difficult," said McCarthy.

Something the industry hopes to change as it works to attract more talent.

"It's a good paying job for those individuals who maybe college isn't the way to go for them," said Lance Binoniemi with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.

To build a new career in a trade that's projected to keep growing.

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A high paying job in a career in high demand.

"I've been in the industry for 32 years," said Tim Miller, a Construction Technology Instructor at the Capital Area Career Center. "It's a wonderful profession. It's provided for my family. I've met wonderful people, and it's been very, very rewarding."

That's why he's training his students at the Capital Area Career Center to get jobs in construction.

"We are desperately in need of skilled qualified contractors," said Miller. "This program provides talent and training so they can go out and get a good job."

A job that pays the average worker in Michigan more than 47 thousand dollars a year.

"These are wonderful career paths whether you want to go into electrical or carpentry or plumbing, pipe fitting, you want to become a site manager," said Chris Fisher with the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan. "There's all sorts of opportunities."

Opportunities that he says are growing, especially during the warmer months.

"As Michigan looks to grow, we need to make sure there are people able to perform the work to build our infrastructure, build our communities," said Fisher.

"The economy is really coming back, so there's a lot of private work that's out there," said Lance Binoniemi with the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association. "Not just for the road construction industry, but also for buildings as well."

Which means putting an emphasis on skilled trades, training the younger workforce to fill those positions.

"There are opportunities for advancement in the construction field as well as other trades also," said Edythe Hatter-Williams at Capital Area Michigan Works.

Advancement in a life long career that doesn't require a four year college degree.

"A clean driving record, a CDL is often helpful," said Jeff McCarthy with Operating Engineers Local 324. "Just the willingness to go to work and work hard and get dirty."

In an industry expected to keep growing.

"It's part of the American dream. The home is the american dream," said Miller. And he's teaching all his students to help build that.