Orlando, Florida -- Around the Orange County Convention Center during Design and Construction Week, the issue of job-site labor shortages served as a leading topic of discussion in the booths and in the conference rooms.
With the launch of the Skilled Labor Fund, a handful of industry associations are taking action by throwing their support behind the brand new Skilled Labor Fund.
The fund -- www.skilledlaborfund.com -- was established to address the lack of skilled labor entering the residential construction market. And it will raise money from partners to recruit and train skilled labor for the housing trades.
The labor shortage was described by Tony Mancini of SGC Horizon as "The most critical headwind and problem in our industry today." Mancini guessed that the fund could reach in excess of $5 million, though he said it's too early to make predictions.
One thing clear to the heads of various industry associations is the need for awareness and training. The average age of a skilled laborer is 57, according to the National Association of Home Builders' CEO Jerry Howard. "Young people just aren't coming into this industry," he said. "This is a problem. We're trying to solve it. The effor that we're announcing today gives us another tool in our toolbox."
Bill Darcy, the CEO of the National Kitchen and Bath Association said it took all of two seconds to decide wether to support the fund. "There can never be enough people talking about this issue," he said.
Ted Mahoney of the National Housing Endowment and Fred Ulreich, the CEO of the National Association of Remodelers, also lent their support for the fund and the concept of training the next generation of skilled labor.
"This is a situation that affects all of our associations, and we can't approach this alone," said Ulreich.