A Pennsylvania congressman is introducing two bills to boost skilled labor for the nation’s employee-starved construction industry, using a combination of apprenticeships, job-training, tax credits and temporary visas to foreign workers to help builders meet the demand for work.
According to a press release by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act and the Workforce Tax Credit Act represent a new attempt to create an immigration visa system for less-skilled workers to do year-round, non-farm work. Both the employer and the laborer would have to be approved by the federal government, and the workers could only work for an approved employer at the approved location.
The Workforce Tax Credit Act would encourage charitable donations for community-based apprenticeship initiatives, career and technical education, workforce development and K-12 educational preparedness by offering donors a tax credit.
Eighty percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce, according to the results of an industry-wide survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).
New Jersey’s construction industry is struggling through its own skilled employee shortage, despite paying good wages and requiring little college-level education.
According to the New Jersey Department of Labor, three-quarters of construction and utility occupations require only a high school degree or less, yet the average wage of $72,980 beats the statewide average of by more than $10,000 per year.
In 2016, employers in the construction and utilities cluster paid over $12.1 billion in total wages, or 5.8 percent of private sector wages paid statewide.