California construction workers in short supply

California's economy is poised for a post-COVID comeback even faster than the rest of the nation. But one obstacle could be standing in the way: a lack of available workers. The construction industry, in particular, is feeling that shortfall. 

In the North Bay alone 40,000 more homes are needed just to catch up and meet demand.  

Though the pandemic slightly slowed down construction work, worker shortages remain rampant. 

"The situation is dire. There was a worker shortage before the pandemic and before our tragic fires from three years ago. It was bad then as a problem. Now, it's a full fledged crisis," said CEO Keith Woods/North Coast Builders Exchange.

As a result, housing growth will slow. 

"There's very few weeks that go by that our organization doesn't hear from our thousand plus members about workers. ‘Do you have any workers? Entry level? Experienced?’ They are really in short supply," said Mr. Woods.

Many parents discourage their children to take up construction careers and there are far too few women. Though some contractors will hire to train, the Builder's Exchange has two programs to get people shovel ready in an industry where the pay starts higher and goes up quicker. 

"For every five workers retiring, only one coming in," said Builders Exchange Workforce Development Director Robin Bartholow. 

Ms. Bartholow heads up the North Bay Construction Corps, a program for high school seniors.

"Building skills that we know are really important to entry level employees and so we work with then over the four and a half to five moths to instill those basic skills like how to read a tape measure, basic construction math, how to use power tools," said Bartholow. 

The Exchange also works closely with Santa Rosa Junior College to teach more sophisticated skills, techniques and technologies, to speed placement and career advancement.

But many workers are needed right this second.

"I would pay a ridiculous amount of money to get a qualified person in here. I would hire 15 people today," said contractor Michael Wolff who also says ads produced no results and many qualified workers prefer to stay at home on stimulus or double dip by working under the table. 

"Unless you have a strong work ethic and a desire to get out there and do something, why would you?" said Mr. Wolff.

The shortage will last for quite some time, giving earlier seniority to those who enter now.