Kansas contractors struggling to fill skilled jobs

A survey finds that many Kansas contractors are having trouble filling skilled jobs in the construction industry.

Ninety percent of the 20 Kansas firms that responded to an Associated General Contractors survey released Wednesday said they’re having a hard time finding project managers, engineers, welders, plumbers and carpenters.

They also said they’re paying more to keep their workers and expect that finding skilled workers will remain difficult or become harder.

Ken Simonson, an Associated General Contractors economist, said Kansas isn’t the only state experiencing a shortage of people applying for construction jobs. He notes that other states, like Texas and Louisiana, are seeing fewer job applications too.

Conco’s human resource manager, Humberto Jimenez, said he currently has positions open that include carpenters, roofers, equipment operators and cement masons.

“During the peak this summer, we could have easily filled 20 positions,” he said. “We’ve been able to fill some of them, but we’re still looking for skilled craft.”

The construction industry is seeing its skilled workforce age and retire, and many workers left the industry after being laid off in 2008 and 2009, The Wichita Eagle reported ( ). They have moved into related industries, such as building oil and gas pipelines or wind farms.

Kansas is working on increasing the applicant pool for skilled workers. The Associated General Contractors of Kansas has worked to implement a specialized construction curriculum in high schools and community colleges.

In 2012, the state Legislature created a program that pays high schools for getting their students to enroll in community college vocational training programs.

Mike Gibson of the Associated General Contractors of Kansas said he thinks students who participate in the vocational training will end up seeking jobs in construction or will enroll in a four-year college for a professional job in construction.