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Polling 1,001 full-time home and building contractors, the new DeWalt Powering the Future survey has found that 55% of U.S. contractors feel a lack of skilled workers is a barrier to growing their businesses. Among businesses with $10 million plus in revenue, that percentage is 69%, and those with 20 or more years’ experience, 64%. To address the concern, 48% believe that training the next generation of skilled workers is one of the industry’s most critical needs to have growth and future success in 2023.

In addition to training the next generation, contractors shared that contingency planning/risk management (37%) and resilient supply chain solutions (37%) are also critical elements to growth next year. Regarding challenges, the survey showed that the three most significant ones among contractors are inflation (57%), finding skilled workers and/or being understaffed (51%), and working long hours (37%).

Since 2019, 56% of contractors have been working more hours. Mechanical (68%), plumbing (66%), and electrical (60%) contractors have been more likely to have seen an increase in labor hours. Almost 40% say longer hours have made their jobs more difficult, and 39% have found that the importance of employee mental health and well-being is a key takeaway from the pandemic.

Ninety-three percent of respondents say that the need for skilled workers has had at least a minor impact on their current work. Those contractors share that the primary causes for the labor shortage is lack of awareness around construction career paths (50%), outside influences that push younger people away from the industry (47%), and underestimation of how much money can be earned in construction (41%).

Regardless of contractor level, tenure, or type, 67% of U.S. contractors report that mentorship programs and educational opportunities in the trades are extremely important, and 53% agree that mentorship increases excitement about construction as a career path. Experienced contractors of 20 or more years are committed to training the next generation, with 63% saying it’s a paramount goal for the future.

“The DeWalt Powering the Future survey sheds further light on the wide-reaching gap in skilled labor and its continued impact on the residential and commercial construction industries. Add to that the overwhelming demand for trades expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the [skilled-labor] gap is quickly becoming the most critical need that will dictate the future success of the field,” says Allison Nicolaidis, president, Power Tools Group, Stanley Black & Decker.

“That’s why DeWalt is committed to putting a heavier spotlight on these challenges and taking a lead role in supporting our industrial and construction partners to overcome them. DeWalt will further its commitment to closing the skills deficit with the launch of the DeWalt Trade Scholarship to support trades education programs for students across the country.”

The DeWalt Trades Scholarship, which awards a $5,000 grant in pursuance of a skilled trade educational program for the 2023-2024 academic year, is available to eligible high school seniors, graduates, or current undergraduate students majoring in a degree/certificate program such as trade construction, motor/power specializations, mechanics, or technology.