As we’ve reported before, and as the development side of multifamily is feeling keenly, there is currently a major lack of skilled trades workers. Some areas are turning to new programs hoping to spark an interest in the trades for young workers. We look at a strategy one Indiana school is using and how it may ultimately benefit the industry in today’s BAM Blog…

Building a Foundation

Earlier this year, several stations reported on one school district’s program to help introduce young workers to the skilled trades. According to a story that appeared on Fox 59 news, the Lebanon school district created a program for high school upperclassmen that has them work with experts to ultimately build an entire house from the ground up. The students work with carpentry, flooring, drywall, etc; completing most of the construction, except for the more complicated systems requiring licensed installation, such as the HVAC and electrical systems. According to the report, for this district, the program has resulted in 14 homes being built; every year, approximately 30 students complete the program and also receive class credit. While not all of the students go on to work in the trades, there are those who move from the program to a planned apprenticeship directly after high school.

Skilled Labor Shortage

According to stats from, from 2006-2011, the construction industry lost 2.3 million jobs. Despite the Great Recession being in the rear view mirror, and the current robust economy, the workers who left haven’t all returned. Many left the field entirely and have not returned, taking their skill set and knowledge base with them. As older workers retire, leaving more available spots, there aren’t enough younger workers stepping in to fill the gaps. For years, many schools have focused increasingly on four-year college preparation, and many recent grads don’t turn to the trades as in decades past.

Construction Costs Rise

As contractors struggle to find workers, the cost is passed along and construction costs have been on the rise. According to one source, thanks to a lack of workers and higher cost of materials, new development is seeing its highest prices since the Great Recession! In 2017, one publication reported that multifamily delivery was being impacted by the lack of skilled labor. Projects were taking longer due to a shortage of available workers; the trades had been vocal about their need for workers then, and are still not up to comfortable numbers.

Programs to Help

As we mentioned, one school is hoping to encourage students to consider the trades. This program isn’t the only one of its kind; we also found similar programs in other states. Last year, the Indy Star wrote about how trade schools were seeing an uptick in interest as the labor shortage persisted. Some large contractors and companies offer paid-school in an apprenticeship program, and some offer scholarships to encourage trade school attendance. Even Mike Rowe has offered scholarships through his charity in order to help get students enrolled in a trade program.

The BAM Bottom Line: Although the skilled trade worker shortage continues, and does affect delivery of multifamily projects, the tide may turn with the development of programs encouraging students to both try and experience the skilled trades.