Despite the construction industry’s best efforts to recruit and retain workers, an ongoing “dramatic decrease” in skilled trades and professionals will continue to put added pressure on contractors and their projects over the next several years. That conclusion proved a core message at the annual meeting earlier this month of owners’ group Construction Users Roundtable.

Daniel Groves, CURT’s director of operations, told attendees at the Florida event that over the last 10 years, the industry has been enduring a one-two punch of major decreases in recruitment combined with a heightened attrition of veterans.

Over that period, for both craftworkers and professionals, the number of industry entrants aged 16 to 24 fell by 65%, while the number of workers reaching age 55 increased by 61%, he added. “Those two things happening simultaneously is seriously depleting the workforce,” Groves said.

CURT data show that over the next decade, about 30% of current construction professionals and skilled craftworkers will reach a retirement age of 64. “The knowledge transfer simply isn’t sufficient,” he said. “We’re not putting enough of the right mentors in the right place.” Negative productivity-related impacts to project budgets and schedules also are growing, Groves pointed out. From 2014 to 2015, 49% of U.S. contractors said workforce productivity dropped.

From the industrial Gulf Coast, 63% of respondents in Texas and Louisiana reported the same trend. Groves noted anecdotal reports of budget increases ranging up to 96% and craft-hour hikes in excess of 200%.

Another matter of concern is an increase in safety related incidents, he added. “The impact of this workforce challenge is very real on projects and very real on budgets."