Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may pose challenges for Home Builders in the Upstate

By: Michael Dey, CEO, Home Builders Association of Greenville

Hurricane Harvey directed the bulk of its punch on Texas, and Irma is headed our way.  However, Approved Professional Home Builders in the Upstate may not be free of the impacts of these hurricanes.  Hurricane Katrina should be a guide to the potential impacts that Harvey may have in store for the Upstate in the coming weeks.

Fuel prices and availability
The first impact is already being felt, and may continue for days or weeks: gasoline availability and price.  Half of the nation’s oil refineries are located in Texas and Louisiana, and they are all closed.  As a result of the lack of flow, the Colonial Pipeline, the means by which gasoline is shipped to the Southeast from the Gulf Coast, has been closed also. This is the source of half of our state’s fuel.  Gasoline prices have already jumped, and shortages may follow.

Building materials shortages
Following Katrina, building materials, particularly lumber and plywood, were in short supply for several months as these materials were diverted to devastated areas following Katrina.  Approved Professional Home Builders can expect the same with Harvey and Irma.  Texas and Florida get some of their lumber from the same suppliers as South Carolina.  These suppliers are in Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia.

If you are not using an escalation clause in your contract with your customers, you should consider using one.  Your attorney can help you add one to your contract.  Your Home Builders Association can provide you with a sample.  Simply email

Labor shortages
Another issue Approved Professional Home Builders experienced following Katrina was labor shortages as subcontractors traveled to hurricane-effected areas to help and in search of bigger pay days.  No matter the reason, some of your labor may head to Texas and Florida to work on clean up and repair efforts there.

In a meeting yesterday with Federal Reserve officials, labor availability was front and center as the number one concern of business people in all industries.  Labor availability is reaching crisis levels, and Harvey could be a catastrophe that pushes the labor problem for construction in the Upstate to a crisis situation.

Approved Professional Home Builders should plan for these contingencies, and prepare for the customers for possible delays in their projects.

Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training In Schools

Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training In Schools

Article courtesy of
Written by Nicholas Wyman

Throughout most of U.S. history, American high school students were routinely taught vocational and job-ready skills along with the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. Indeed readers of a certain age are likely to have fond memories of huddling over wooden workbenches learning a craft such as woodwork or maybe metal work, or any one of the hands-on projects that characterized the once-ubiquitous shop class.

Instructor helps a student participating in a woodworking manufacturing training program in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg Charlie Negron

But in the 1950s, a different philosophy emerged: the theory that students should follow separate educational tracks according to ability. The idea was that the college-bound would take traditional academic courses (Latin, creative writing, science, math) and received no vocational training. Those students not headed for college would take basic academic courses, along with vocational training, or “shop.”
Ability tracking did not sit well with educators or parents, who believed students were assigned to tracks not by aptitude, but by socio-economic status and race. The result being that by the end of the 1950s, what was once a perfectly respectable, even mainstream educational path came to be viewed as a remedial track that restricted minority and working-class students.
The backlash against tracking, however, did not bring vocational education back to the academic core. Instead, the focus shifted to preparing all students for college, and college prep is still the center of the U.S. high school curriculum.
So what’s the harm in prepping kids for college? Won’t all students benefit from a high-level, four-year academic degree program? As it turns out, not really. For one thing, people have a huge and diverse range of different skills and learning styles. Not everyone is good at math, biology, history and other traditional subjects that characterize college-level work. Not everyone is fascinated by Greek mythology, or enamored with Victorian literature, or enraptured by classical music. Some students are mechanical; others are artistic. Some focus best in a lecture hall or classroom; still others learn best by doing, and would thrive in the studio, workshop or shop floor.
And not everyone goes to college. The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that about 68% of high school students attend college. That means over 30% graduate with neither academic nor job skills.
But even the 68% aren’t doing so well. Almost 40% of students who begin four-year college programs don’t complete them, which translates into a whole lot of wasted time, wasted money, and burdensome student loan debt. Of those who do finish college, one-third or more will end up in jobs they could have had without a four-year degree. The BLS found that 37% of currently employed college grads are doing work for which only a high school degree is required….continue reading.

Debunking the Myth that Immigration Harms America

The National Association of Home Builders and a group of 18 other trade associations representing business leaders and millions of employers across the nation today submitted written testimony refuting the myth that immigration hurts American workers and the economy during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining this topic.

Separating truth from fiction, the business coalition debunked the following falsehoods:

Myth: Lowering the number of immigrants would free up jobs for American workers.
Fact: Immigration helps create jobs for American workers

Myth: Foreign workers take one in five jobs in America.
Fact: Americans fill more than 91% of all jobs in America.

Myth: Lesser-skilled immigrants take jobs away from Americans without college degrees.
Fact: The data show that immigration does not negatively impact American workers without college degrees. In fact, lesser-skilled immigrants create jobs for Americans and grow crucial sectors of our economy.

Employment projects for 2012-2022 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the construction sector is expected to grow by more than 20%, nearly double the overall national average.

“Indeed, some sectors have seen rising labor shortages, presenting significant industry challenges,” the group’s written testimony stated. “For example, the number of open construction sector jobs as of December 2014 (147,000) stands post-recession highs, and the job open rate exceeds that prior to the housing boom. Lesser-skilled immigrants help to fill labor shortages in these industries, creating jobs for Americans and helping those industries grow.”

As the debate on Capitol Hill continues, your Home Builders Association is urging lawmakers to support comprehensive immigration reform that will:

  • Safeguard our borders;
  • Establish a fair employment verification system; and
  • Create a market-based visa system that will allow more immigrants to legally enter the construction workforce as the housing industry gains momentum and the demand for workers increases.

View the complete written testimony here.

This WEEK! Greenville Tech Open House Luncheon for HBA Members

This WEEK! Greenville Tech Open House Luncheon for HBA Members

Mark your calendar now for November 19, 11:30 a.m.  Greenville Tech’s Building Construction Technology Division will host an Open House for HBA members.

This will be an opportunity for HBA members, who are interested in hiring trained employees, to learn about the programs and curriculum at Greenville Tech and meet the faculty and staff.  You also will have the opportunity to meet students, your future employees.  Lunch will be served.

UPDATE: The luncheon will be held in Building 106C (Carpentry/Masonry/Plumbing) of Greenville Tech’s Main Campus, 506 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Greenville, SC 29607.

Please RSVP to the HBA Office by calling 864-254-0133, email, or register online by clicking here.

Contractors brace for labor shortage

Contractors brace for labor shortage

Your HBA of Greenville has been reporting on this for months now. Take a look at the most recent article from GSA Business.

 After having worked decades in construction, Waldrop Inc. President and CEO Bill Caldwell sees a labor problem that is about to get a lot worse. He said that, unlike in the past, young people who might have chosen to start construction jobs and move up through the ranks are now opting for college or training for manufacturing jobs that are less physically demanding.
“I think it’s an issue that is silent and people really don’t realize the potential impact long term on the cost of getting things done,” Caldwell said.
Many skilled construction workers changed careers during the Great Recession and have not returned, Caldwell said.
Waldrop Inc. President and CEO Bill Caldwell said that, unlike in the past, young people who might have chosen to start construction jobs are now opting for college or training for manufacturing jobs.
Waldrop Inc. President and CEO Bill Caldwell said that, unlike in the past, young people who might have chosen to start construction jobs are now opting for college or training for manufacturing jobs that are less physically demanding. (Photo by Bill Poovey)
Previous coverage:
The National Center for Construction Education and Research has predicted a nationwide shortage of 2 million skilled construction workers by 2017. On top of that, the industry is aging, with most craft professionals close to 50 years old.
“We as an industry are not doing what we need to do to make the public, the academic world and the youth aware of the opportunities that are available today,” Caldwell said.
He said companies in the Upstate and elsewhere in the Southeast “have to compete in our industry against other areas in our country that may be in a boom.” He said there are huge gas and oil projects in the Gulf Region and “people will be flocking to that work from all over the country.”
Dan Doyle — vice president of development at The Beach Co. in Charleston, a company that has announced plans for mixed-use residential projects in Greenville — said that “from the multifamily rental perspective, availability of labor to build” is a potential pitfall for the industry, along with increasing material costs.
Doyle said the labor pool is a “serious issue.”
Robert Hughes, project manager at Hughes Development Corp., said labor availability is “always a concern for anyone in the development business. With how much construction currently is in the marketplace and … it’s not just in Greenville-Spartanburg. It seems to be everywhere. Contractors can be a little pickier about what they want to do and who they want to work with,” and can price things more competitively.
Brian Gallagher, director of marketing at O’Neal Inc., said there is “growing concern” among contractors.
“There are simply not enough trained and skilled construction craftsmen to fill the construction jobs in South Carolina,” Gallagher said.
“Regional construction booms, in the Gulf Coast and other areas, are examples of the challenges facing the industry,” he said. Gallagher said demand for workers in areas where there is a boom in construction, such as the Gulf Coast, “are pulling resources from the surrounding area including South Carolina.”
He said the “result will be escalating costs for S.C. companies.”
The Center for Construction Education has developed programs used in some schools, and Caldwell has met recently with representatives of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce to discuss a strategy to head off a worsening labor shortage. Caldwell said he and others are working to “make people in public education aware there are a lot of career opportunities available in the construction industry. All we hear is manufacturing. I think our industry is getting left out.”
Caldwell said construction is hard work, the workplace may not be as comfortable outside as an indoor manufacturing facility and starting manufacturing salaries may be slightly higher. He said workers that develop construction skills — electricians, pipefitters, welders, brick masons and carpenters — can reach higher salary levels than manufacturing jobs long term.
“You can make a good living,” Caldwell said. “There are plenty of opportunities. We want to hire young kids coming out of high school and tech school.”
He said people would “rather work on an assembly line instead of in the hot and cold” but 20 years from now they can “be on a management team or own a company.”
Caldwell said there are $30 billion worth of infrastructure projects on the drawing board and “people just aren’t standing in line to be craftsmen right now. There are good, bona fide careers in the construction industry.
“There is always going to be a need to build, renovate and maintain buildings,” Caldwell said. He said Waldrop has an apprentice program “but we can’t find 18-year-old kids who want to be a part of it.”
“You have a lot more opportunity for advancement with a company like ours if you are willing to work,” he said. “In a reasonable period of time you can be a foreman or superintendent or project management.”
“We want to become a manufacturing state but say, ‘Hey, don’t forget about us.’ ” Caldwell said.
Allen Gray — a spokesman for the Carolinas chapter of Associated General Contractors, which represents 1,450 contractors and related firms in both states, said it’s “not only the baby boomers moving on but it’s the length of this recession.”
He said people who left the industry in 2008 and 2009 have gone on to other careers.
“The economy ramps back up and we’re starting to hire again,” Gray said. “We are looking to bring people back into the industry and to grow our own work force.”
He said one member company just got a contract for a job in Charlotte and is looking to hire 60 electricians. He said skilled electricians can make $25 an hour.
“First we need to focus on vocational skills in our public school system,” Gray said. “There’s a lot of money to be made in these jobs.”
S.C. Department of Commerce spokeswoman Allison Skipper said in an email that their data and other reputable sources do “not show a notion of a construction labor shortage. They mentioned that in a true shortage, the high demand would force wage rates in that sector up, which has not been the case. Plus homebuilding permits are up.”
The agency’s reports show employment in the construction industry in March had increased by 3,500 jobs in the previous 12 months.
Will Huss Jr., president and CEO at Trehel Corp., said colleges and universities are “doing a great job” delivering candidates for office and management positions. He said that during the recession many in the construction industry changed fields and the current skilled work force is aging.
“It was a huge impact on the both the architectural world, construction world and engineering world,” Huss said. What concerns me most, it’s not that there is a lack of people right now, it’s that there aren’t any new ones coming about.” He said technology has become an influence that has young people wanting to go directly into management.
“They don’t want to work their way up the old fashioned way,” Huss said. “Some of the starting positions have a higher starting wage than construction, but construction has more of an upside.”
He said the “technological industries are so attractive to young people. Construction is hard.”
Huss commended Greenville Technical College for its construction program, describing it as “incredible.”
Huss said Trehel has about 70 employees.
Greenville Tech President Keith Miller said the college’s building construction technology program has more students than last year, likely due to a partnership with the Greenville Home Builders Association.
“I don’t see a move away from that, but like any other career field when the employers start to feel the crunch” they start talking about it, Miller said.