Strike Three?

Jan. 21, 2020

Phil Connors is the main character played by Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. In the film, Connors relives the same day over and over, stuck in a seemingly endless time loop. The events of the day continually repeat themselves—that is, until Phil Connors decides to improve himself.

He learns to play the piano. He also takes up ice sculpting. Phil learns how to administer first-aid. Phil Connors accepts his repetitive reality and decides to make changes within that framework. The next day finally comes after a lot of hard work, some self-awareness, and sacrifice.

We find our industry to be in a similar scenario. We’re not reliving the same day, but in a way we’re repeating the same year.

According to results from a survey done by the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and Sage Construction and Real Estate, there’s going to be a healthy demand for projects in 2020 much like there was last year. But more firms are worried about being able to find an adequate amount of qualified workers, much like last year.

In a press release announcing the survey, AGC chief executive officer, Stephen E. Sandherr, says, “Contractors are very optimistic about demand for construction in 2020. At the same time, many construction executives are troubled by labor shortages and the impacts those shortages are having on operations, training and safety programs, and bottom lines.”

The survey also shows that most contractors plan to add staff in 2020 to keep pace with growing demand. But 81% report they’re having a hard time filling salaried and hourly craft positions. That share is up slightly from 78% at the start of 2019.

To fight the trend, contractors continue to raise pay and provide bonuses and benefits as they did in 2019 and 2018.

Construction firms are also investing more in training programs for current and new workers.

The adoption rate of technology such as drones, machine control, 3D printers, data analysis, and management software continues to grow as it has in years past.

The key to breaking free of this “loop” may depend on help from the federal government. We need more resources to promote and fund technical education. Immigration reform is another item on that list, as is infrastructure investment.

Maybe the federal government is analogous to Phil Connors’ love interest in the movie, Rita. Once Rita sees that we’ve evolved and that we’re a devoted, hard-working, modern, self-aware industry, she’ll admit her love for us and bestow upon us the resources and deregulation to create a healthy and prosperous tomorrow.

Or maybe we’ll be asking for the same things next year.