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The Labor Dilemma

Overcoming a labor dilemma for plumbing and the skilled trades

Contractors on a construction jobsite discussing blueprint specifications

If you’re a builder, contractor or plumber, you’re undoubtedly concerned with the future of the economy and housing market.

Following a large recession between 2007 and 2010, the housing market has been rising towards its former glory. Fortunately, forecasts indicate a continuation of the recovery for both existing and new home sales. While the recovery has been slow, it is steady, which is promising for those in the industry.

Despite the fact that the housing market is on the rise, skilled labor is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

This past December, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index asked builders about the problems they faced in 2016 and expect to face in 2017. Topping the list was Cost/Availability of Labor. Nearly 78% of Builders viewed this as the most significant issue that they face, and since 2011, when only 13% of builders viewed labor as an issue, it has been a problem steadily on the rise.

The future makes this problem look even more substantial in plumbing.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a large number of plumbers in the workforce today to retire over the next 10 years, increasing the need for skilled workers.  Employment needs in plumbing are projected to grow nearly 12% before 2024, considerably outpacing the average 7% growth rate for other occupations outside of the skilled trades during this same time period. Not only is there a large portion of the workforce retiring, but there is also a considerable shortage of new skilled trade laborers entering the work force. According to a survey conducted by RIGID, a mere 6% of high school students aspire for a future career in the skilled trades (plumbers, carpenters, electricians, heating, ventilation, air conditioning installers and repair specialists). Based on these estimates, only 49,000 high school graduates will be entering the skilled trades workforce, which is not enough to fulfill the needs for plumbing or other skilled trades. With an aging housing infrastructure, increasing home improvement and repair expenditures, and a growing trend of urbanization, the shortage of labor will continue to be problematic for the foreseeable future.

So, how do you address this challenge, now and in the future?

In today’s competitive environment, it comes down to finding ways to improve efficiency.  Being able to do the same, or more, with less. Manufacturers can be a key contributor by developing product solutions that improve efficiency and help the trade address these challenges. This is something that SharkBite believes in and is providing to the plumbing trade with its push-to-connect plumbing system. No special tools are required and no soldering, clamps or glue are needed to plumb an entire home or make a repair. This allows plumbing contractors to train new workers quicker, reduce lost job time and minimize install errors, resulting in better efficiency and fewer customer callbacks. As a manufacturer, SharkBite is working to find solutions that help the trade gain efficiency and overcome the challenges it is facing with labor shortages and rising labor cost.

Reliable Plant Article: Poll: Skilled Trades Rank Low in Teens’ Career Options
US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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