Sable Homes’ John Bitely discusses the impact of labor shortage in West Michigan

The effect of the labor shortage in West Michigan is beginning to be felt across more industries, but I believe may be impacting the building trades at an even higher rate.

In a recent report by the National Association of Home Builders, they cite cost and availability of labor, along with the increase cost of building materials, as the two most significant problems builders expect to face in 2018.

Over 80 percent of builders surveyed in the report state these two issues expect to be major challenges this year. Here is the link to the report:

Earlier this month, Grand Valley State University’s Paul Isely spoke at the West Michigan Economic and Commercial Real Estate Forecast, and noted local employers are running out of workers to hire.

“We are out of workers. You can’t hire them if they don’t exist,” Isely told the group.

In 2015, I was asked to discuss the lack of skilled workers before the State House Workforce Development Committee. We estimated the state loss 60,000 jobs during the recession that began in 2008 and lasted until about 2013.

The lack of workers going into the skilled trades is the biggest factor impacting the growth of Michigan’s home building industry. The shortage of labor is resulting in construction delays and increased labor costs.

In addition, the Youth Employment Standards Act 90 of 1978, which essentially states that anyone under the age of 18 “may not work in any occupation deemed to be hazardous, which includes work on construction sites,” without parent, school and employer signed work permits. So even with a signed work permit, we can’t have these individuals on a ladder or allow them to use a power saw or nailer, so it’s impractical to have these young people work and learn.

As home builders, we need to tell our young people: ‘There are jobs for you in this industry where you can make a good living.’

We are always looking for hard-working individuals to hire as home building demands continue to grow. We need to do all we can to provide training and career opportunities to those interested in skilled trades so we can get over this hurdle.

— John Bitely, Sable Homes president

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