Labor shortage expected to worsen

Construction industry says it's in crisis, partly due to aging work force

Posted: Wednesday, February 02, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's construction industry is facing a worsening shortage of laborers as a result of the field's growth and an aging work force.

Construction of a natural gas pipeline and other giant projects in Alaska could further exacerbate the shortage, industry leaders said.

"We're in a crisis," said Mike Andrews, director of Alaska Works Partnership. "Without crying wolf, what we are trying to say is if we had a four-plex, one unit is on fire and if we don't do anything another unit will catch on fire too."

Andrews was among participants of a recent construction summit held in Anchorage. Participants, including representatives of businesses and trade organizations, discussed the industry's foreseen labor shortage and framed recommendations for the state labor department's Alaska Workforce Investment Board.

Since 1998, the board has provided policy oversight of state and federally funded job training and vocational education programs, and has determined how training funds are distributed to different training providers across the state, said executive director Mona McAleese.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development and AWIB jointly sponsored the construction summit with the Associated General Contractors of Alaska and the Alaska Works Partnership, a nonprofit corporation representing all of Alaska's building and construction trade unions and their federally registered apprenticeship and training programs.

About 2,000 people need to be trained each year between 2002 and 2012 in construction-related occupations to meet the industry's employment needs forecast by state labor economists, said Dick Cattanach, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska.

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