Construction work has often been regarded as a trade that is passed along from one generation to another. However, as more young people head to college and more trade programs are cut from schools, less of this demographic plans to enter that workforce. This has been a trend for the past 20 years.
Valentin Morales is a construction worker who has been in this trade for more than 10 years. He said these were skills he learned from his father.
“I’ve been in this industry for years, and it’s all I know,” Morales said.
For many people, working under the sun with heavy equipment might not sound appealing.
“People don’t really want to work in construction,” Morales said. “I don’t know if they’re scared of the heat, or if they simply prefer to work at fast food places.”
While there are constructions sites around Coachella Valley, the reality is that the driving force is aging, and many of the leaders in the industry are retiring. Labor shortages is one of the reasons why housing prices are so high.
Gretchen Gutierrez is the chief executive officer at the Desert Valley Builders Association, and she has been in the industry for years. It all started thanks to her father who painted homes, so she has witnessed first-hand how less young people are joining the industry.
“It’s tough. We go out and talk to groups, the high schools, college, community college,” she said. “We are trying to entice people to come to the business.”
Construction jobs are usually seen as labor intensive, but there are many positions available for people that are not as hands on.
“On a typical house 45 different construction trades are involved in building a house,” Gutierrez said.
That includes architects, interior designers, business code inspectors, engineers, just to mention a few.
Erasmo Chavero has been a carpenter for 15 years. He said he initially joined the field because he could make good money. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median salary for construction workers is $33, 450 per year.
“You can start as a worker, prepare yourself and work your way up to be a supervisor and even the owner of your own company,” Chavero said.
While there might be stigma around construction jobs, Chavero sees it as an art that requires contemplation.
“You learn a lot in carpentry,” he said. “[You learn] things about engineering, architecture. There’s a lot of symmetry and geometry involved.”
Gutierrez does not think we will completely run out of construction labor in California because there is always a good number of international laborers coming to work to the U.S. However, with current immigration laws, it might be harder for seasonal workers to take on those positions.
In order to gain more interest at a younger age, Gutierrez believes that a possible solution would be incorporating more trade programs at local high schools and colleges.