CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - As the demand for qualified craft workers goes up in the Coastal Empire and nationally, construction firms are having a hard time filling those positions.
The Associated General Contractors of America recently released findings from an industry-wide survey that found two-thirds of construction firms believe finding craft workers will be a tough task in the future, too.
The dean of Savannah Technical College's Industrial Technology Department says industry leaders locally have been aware of the shortage of craft workers for some time. They call the phenomenon a "gray out."
"That particularly is our baby boomers retiring. And we're trying to replace those with a skilled workforce," said Dean of Industrial Technology Department Joseph Powell.
Dean Powell says the college meets with construction industry leaders twice a year to get a sense of what positions are needed, and what types of workers they are looking for.
"The problem is keeping up with the amount of people they need. I mean, we are pumping out a good number of graduates annually, it's just, as the industry is re-growing, they are coming back to us and we are getting more people in the program. Hence, we are able to meet the needs, or try to meet the needs of the construction industry," said Department Head of Construction Technologies, Daniel Krautheimer.
Krautheimer says he sees the focus locally shifting to need for workers in commercial and light commercial construction. He adds residential projects are on the rise, too.
"We need electricians. We need plumbers. We need sprinkler fitters, we need elevator mechanics," said Joe Marchese, of Joe Marchese Construction.
Marchese and the folks at Savannah Technical College agree that one big way to cut down on the shortage of industry workers is to reach the younger generation in elementary, middle and high school classrooms.
"Construction is changing. And what we need to do is tell young people that this is exciting, there's technology involved, there are drones involved, there's robotic scanning involved," said Marchese.
"If we can start them in the high schools, and get more people to the industry, I think overall we're going to be able to increase the amount of people going out into the industry quicker," said Krautheimer.
Savannah Technical College does work with the "Move on When Ready" dual-enrollment program here in Georgia, which allows high school students to take college courses and training to get a head start on trade education.