Billings, Montana – The National Construction Workforce Survey was published at the beginning of September by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America. It contained information on manpower shortages and the effects on infrastructure from 22 states, including Montana.
Billions of dollars were granted by the bipartisan infrastructure package enacted by Congress in November 2021 to rebuild roads and bridges across the country, but more projects require more workers, and in Montana, the work is being delayed due to a lack of qualified personnel.
Although there is money available, according to David Smith, Executive Director of the Montana Contractors Association, there are not enough laborers or materials to complete many of the projects.
“There is a backlog with projects available, for example, water and sewer projects across the state of Montana after the ARPA money came out. There is a billion dollars’ worth of projects that came out and not just in big cities that are in Roundup and across the Highline and a lot of other places that are necessary projects for infrastructure, but it is hard to get a big construction company to get mobilize and get to a place like that.”
Smith claimed that although there is a great demand for the materials, they are not readily available.
Consequently, the timetable for completing projects is further delayed even though the workers are present.
He claimed that the state is currently experiencing a scarcity of experienced tradespeople in the construction sector, including bricklayers, plumbers, and carpenters.
“That is we are seeing a lot of challenges, like all this money coming from the federal government for these projects, that’s what is really kind of hamstringing some of these projects because that labor pool is only so big, even though it’s been growing in Montana, it’s only so big and for highway work, you can only do that about 8 months out of the year anyway, so we are kind of hamstrung there too.”
According to Smith, there are 6,000 more individuals working in construction than there were before the epidemic, indicating that there is a demand for those positions and a plenty of prospects in the sector.
The Association hopes to collaborate more with middle school students in order to inspire them to develop an early interest in the sector, David continued.