Supply of Workers Is Not Keeping Up with Construction Growth

Jan 4, 2017

The boom in construction projects across the state is challenging contractors to find enough workers to complete them. The labor shortage will only worsen as an aging workforce enters retirement.

A future hotel near the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines is one of the many construction projects tapping into the state's supply of workers.
Credit Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

It’s estimated a third of Iowa’s construction workers will retire over the next five years. Combined with an existing shortage of workers, this is putting a strain on contractors to fill their workforce needs. The president and CEO of the Master Builders of Iowa, Chad Kleppe, says his group is targeting students as young as middle school to attract them into construction careers.

“You can come out of high school and earn while you learn," Kleppe says. "After five years in the industry, you’re making north of $50-55,000 with zero college debt.”

Kleppe says the worker shortage is changing the way builders go about their jobs.

“Contractors by their nature are very creative in how they’re going to meet their workforce needs," he says. "Obviously, they’re trying to do more with less right now, but in some respects, they’re changing the way they construct.”

Kleppe says some contractors in Central Iowa are putting pieces of buildings together on manufacturing floors before hauling them to construction sites as a way to save labor.