Mike Colon

From the Desk of Mike Colon, Blue Collar Black Book Founder

Construction Labor Supply: The Dinosaurs Will Rule Again!

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There is a growing concern among construction contractors, tradesmen and others that the supply of people entering the construction industry has slipped far below the rate at which people are leaving the industry. I whole heartily agree. Why are people leaving? Why aren't they entering? Who cares? Why DOES IT EVEN MATTER? Strap on a harness we're about to go for a ride.

 Let's start with an easy question to answer. Why are people leaving the Trades, if the trades are so great. My top 5 would reasons would be Retirement (old age), Retirement (medical), Death, Forced Out (due to personality flaws & drugs), or had to find another way to make a living. It's a cold hard fact of the Trades, Hard Work Will Destroy Your Body. I know less than 10 guys over 60 who are still in the trades one of them being my dad. If you made it through your first 10 to 15 years without picking up a drug & alcohol problem or death then you will probably be okay through your 40's. I really start to see folks falling out in their 50's due to medical or death. This is why it is so important to still get an education and to promote up into a leadership position in a company or “go out on your own” (but that is for another article coming soon). That bring us to...

Why Aren't People Entering The Trades?

EVERY generation of Tradesmen before us has said “These young guys are a new breed. I don't understand them. They don't have what it takes”. Obviously they were wrong to a degree but they saw something that was true to an extent. Each generation, for the last 70 years, as a whole, has let itself slip a bit in the skills, mind set and character it takes to do this work. I think the phenomenon we are witnessing, right now, with the lack of really talented, motivated, dedicated, tough kids coming up to replace our ranks is actually the cut off point that the old timers were worried about. The kids coming out of high school, seriously and sadly enough, don't have the skills, the drive or the guts to do this work (for more on that, check out No Place For Wimps or Neanderthals). I am not going to go into why they just can't hack it or why they don't want to but I accept it as truth because for the past 5 to 10 years I've been witnessing it, JOB SITE after Job Site after job site.

Of course there are a few of us in each generation, starting 7 or 8 decades ago that has looked up to the previous generations admired their character, their skill, their tenacity and for the lack of a more perfect term their BadAssery! We tried to prove something to those old tough guys. We wanted to earn their respect. I think that those of us that subscribed to their ways and emulated their success did all right. Hopefully we pass it on. WAIT A SECOND, I just realized, maybe the reason is that the new generation has no respect for those generations before them, hence they don't look up to them, hence they don't emulate them, which leads to them just being worthless and burying their face in the cell phone...BUT I digress.

Who Cares?

Well right now, guys in the trades and very shortly almost everybody will care. Why you ask? Great question thanks for participating. Guys in the Trades care because there is a shortage of people, to do all that work, that we rely on young bodies, who are paying their dues, to do. In addition a large portion of those older guys who made it into their 40's got smart, started their own business or rose in the ranks to supervise AND I GUARANTEE YOU They Absolutely Do Not Want To “Strap Their Bags On” and start doing that work, they started out doing to pay their dues. But that is a very distinct possibility. Most contractors I see, young or old, skirt that problem by hiring immigrant labor, which, under the right circumstances, I'm not opposed to (look for that article coming post haste).

SO After All That, Why Does It Even Matter?

Because once again the Dinosaurs (of the trades) will rule! It's a simple principle of supply and demand. I told my dad, earlier today, this very thing. I said “You hang in there dad and you will be able to name your own price within 10 years”. He kind of looked at me puzzled, like he does when I finally open my mouth (I am very focused on the job and don't talk much at all). So I explained, within 10 years your entire generation will be gone (he's 66). The losses to my generation are going to be mounting up soon and my generation is probably 30/70 (Good tradesmen to 70% guys that can't make it in the trades). Almost everybody agrees, most of the people coming in now ARE WORTHLESS and shouldn't be here for a variety of reasons, and those that can hack it are going to be subject to the same factors that drove out good tradesmen, prematurely, before them. All these factors will lead to a massive shortage of Tradesmen to Maintain, Repair, Improve, or Replace our massive degrading infrastructure, homes and buildings. It's a massive Increase in Demand AND an Seemingly Equal and Opposite Reduction in Supply of talented Tradesmen to do the work. Which, if you have taken Economics or Business 101, you realize compensation for Tradesmen SHOULD go through the roof. Leaving The Old Dinosaurs to Rule once again........ I just hope it's enough reward to offset the last 30 years of wage stagnation.

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