by Michael McDonagh
Construction in 2022 promises to continue at a robust pace, subject to the challenges that have come to the fore in the past six months. The first is the challenges posed by material price increases and availability. This is an issue that keeps many subcontractors up at night. Contractors think about what happens when you sign a contract now, and the required supplies double in price six months from now. What if the contractor cannot perform because delivery is delayed by nine months? Should the contractor bid the job before knowing materials will be in hand on time? These are some of the questions that subcontractors wrestle with. Perhaps there will be some amount of relief in 2022, but all indications are this issue will take some time to self-correct. In the meantime, owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers are best served by communicating early in transactions before more minor issues grow into more significant problems for projects.
The second significant challenge facing the construction industry is the labor shortage. Labor shortages are not new for the industry and have only been exacerbated over the past two years. This is a long-term industry that calls for holistic, long-term solutions. Our state hopes to improve by providing a significant increase in funding for workforce development programs in the recently signed ARPA funding legislation. The Career Technical Institute funding will allow vo-tech schools to open for second and third shifts. Also, the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund will see an influx in funding. But funding alone will not solve the shortage. We must find more ways to work with high schools and families to show the younger generation the value of a career in the trades.
Bringing certainty to construction material pricing and availability and bolstering our future workforce will help to set the industry back on the path of growth we saw in 2018-2019. Addressing these challenges will be two of the Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts’ initiatives in 2022.
At the early stages of the pandemic, construction saw some temporary work shutdowns, but then the industry evolved and adopted new safety protocols to keep employees and clients safe while work continued. Looking back, one of the biggest lessons learned from 2021 was the resilience of the construction industry. Look around the state today and you can see that construction is a true economic driver employing thousands of tradesmen and women. All this should not come as a surprise but is great to see on a daily basis.
Michael McDonagh is CEO of Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts.