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Subcontractor shortage is driving up costs

Subcontractor shortage is driving up costs

By Mike Price
For Eastern Idaho Business Report

New homes are popping up all over eastern Idaho, but there aren’t enough subcontractors to meet the demand. The Eastern Idaho Home Builders Association hopes to remedy that problem.
“Statistics show that 30 percent of kids graduate and go on to college; what’s the other 70 percent doing?” said Naden Michaelson executive officer for the EIHBA. “We … started a program this year, that will take the kids in our student chapters at the technical high school — we’ve placed them with mentors in the building industry.”
At the end of the semester, the students will be evaluated to find the ones who performed the best.
“The top four of those are receiving a paid internship, for the summer, with their mentor that they job shadowed,” Michaelson said.
The program is being tested at District 93’s technical high school where Mark Hillyard teaches building construction carpentry classes.
“We’re hopeful we can do it year after year,” Hillyard said. “It’s good for the kids to be able to do some different things. A couple of them are framing, a couple are working with general contractors and a couple of them are hooked up with electricians.”
Michaelson said the hope is to help students understand that they can make a good living in these technical careers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationally, the annual median wage for workers in the residential building construction industry is $45,420.
Currently, the shortage of subcontractors is driving up the cost of homes.
“People are having to pay subcontractors more to get them to their jobs because — supply and demand — there’s fewer of them so they can charge more,” Michaelson said. “It would be great if we could get kids coming out of high school and going into the trades.”
During the Idaho Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon on Monday, Rep. Dell Raybould expressed the need for students to learn trade work.
“We hear so much all the time about, ‘we’ve got to have our students learn math and science,’ but if we’re going to build a house, we’ve got to have carpenters, electricians and plumbers,” Raybould said. “We need to get a lot of our kids who like that kind of work — we need to get them up to speed on how to do it and how to do it successfully.”
For now, Michaelson said, the home building market in Idaho is strong and is projected to stay that way for the next few years. Because of that, she is hopeful students participating in the program will be able to, depending on their area of study, quickly transition into a career.
“Electrical, they need some schooling to go with that,” she explained. “It would probably take one or two years at a technical school or junior college, but they would be well on their way to receiving their apprentice license, by the time they finish with us. Now, trim carpenters — he could go right to work. If he learned enough and applied himself, could go right to work in his own company, immediately.”