Students at the CHBA in Denver gain hands on experience for a range of home building jobs. The academy is open to adults and high school students in the Denver area.
Photography by Jeff Nelson Students at the CHBA in Denver gain hands on experience for a range of home building jobs. The academy is open to adults and high school students in the Denver area.

Four reasons are often given for housing's labor shortage, now much more acute in the wake of three destructive hurricanes that ripped through the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas, and a wildfire conflagration that blasted California, north of San Francisco.

  • Skilled workers left the field after losing their jobs during and after the Great Recession;
  • Immigrants are a waning stream of new skilled labor;
  • Skilled laborers are aging out of the trades at a faster rate new young ones are coming in; and
  • Young people don't get motivated by the thought of careers in the building trades.

Which is a root cause, and which is, instead, a symptom?

Could a lasting solution be as simple (and difficult) as paying a wage that fairly matches up to value we place in a quality job by a man or women whose skills take time and care to learn and practice to perfect?

While figuring that out may not be top of mind as markets in Florida, Houston, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and California try to sort out a recovery plan of action, getting to a root cause for today's labor shortage may not be an option.

If it were as simple an explanation as, "well, there are no more "shop" classes in high school," then those very same labor shortages would not be confronting other fields as well, like restaurants, and trucking, and even healthcare.

That a young boy or girl--of any heritage or pedigree-self-selects a livelihood in the building trades should not be a rare exception, but rather on a par with every other field of work.

A fruitful place to start in a plan of attraction to people primed to pick a career path--like this new program at Howard College, San Angelo, TX, featured by the National Association of Home Builders as part of its Careers in Construction Month coverage--will be the places attracting young workers, period.

This month's LinkedIn Workforce Report gives us clues, and a relevant reading for where there's opportunity to address near-term mismatches between needed skilled labor reinforcements and areas where there are temporary gluts among such workers.

The LinkedIn knowledge base, if you're wondering, draws on 141 million profiles among businesses large and small, and commentary in the October analysis is particularly relevant.

The crunch for construction workers intensifies in the Southeast – In recent weeks, hurricanes have wreaked destruction in Houston, Miami, and Puerto Rico. Rebuilding efforts are underway, but the market for construction workers is tight. Houston, Dallas, and Austin are three of the top ten cities with the largest relative shortage of construction skills nationwide. In contrast, Floridian cities are relatively abundant in construction skills. However, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, and West Palm Beach have seen this surplus decrease rapidly over the past year due to rising demand for construction workers. So where will impacted cities find construction workers for their rebuilding efforts? Our data shows that there are large pockets of underutilized construction workers in the Northeast - like Philadelphia, Hartford, and Providence - and the Midwest - like Cleveland, Kansas City, and Milwaukee.

Now, the way we each characterize the "root cause" of the labor shortage crisis may have a great deal to do with what our latest Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thaler might refer to as "framing effect" biases, which have nothing to do with framing homes.

But a place to begin telling the story, persuading young workers to consider the value they can gain in their lives by pursuing careers in the construction trades, might best be where young workers are flocking to live because they can find more attainable housing options there.