Construction over college: Skilled labor in huge demand as Utah growth soars

Construction over college: Skilled labor in huge demand as Utah growth soars (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) When Ryle Firth graduated high school, he decided to go into a trade job in construction while some of his friends pursued college degrees.

Five years later, Firth is a carpenter whose skills are in huge demand.

“I’m not saying college is bad, but you don’t need to go to college to make money,” Firth said.

He’s working on a juvenile correction center under construction in Ogden and says he rarely works under 40 hours a week doing his part on the job site.

“They’ll pay you for it, there’s a lot of money to be made in construction, but I don’t think a lot people realize that,” Firth said.

Firth’ works Layton Construction based in Sandy ( ) . Layton has now started asking their employees to recruit friends to fill their open jobs.

“We wrapped up the great recession and came into this very dynamic construction market that’s taking place in the state of Utah,” Layton Construction marketing director Alan Rindlisbacher told 2News. “It’s a challenge to find workers.”

Layton is one of the contractors building the new state prison in Salt Lake City – one of two major infrastructure projects that will strain the skilled labor pool in Utah for the next few years.

“With the new prison construction, with the new airport construction, with this kind of construction downtown, it is the perfect storm for construction and the opportunities are great,” Rindlisbacker said.

Near the airport and state prison, Amazon is building a massive distribution center. UPS is also in the middle of constructing their new regional hub off I-80 and 5600 West. Adobe announced its plan to expand operations in Utah County by building a new facility and adding more than 1,000 full-time jobs.

The Associated General Contractors, a trade organization representing most major construction firms, sponsors “I Build America“ ( ), a program designed to try and get young adults to consider a labor trade – an increasingly tough task.

“Everybody has been told for so long, ‘you have to go to college, ‘” Sydne Jacques with Associated General Contractors of Utah told 2News. “Honestly it has hurt us.”

Jacques says the industry saw the labor shortage coming a few years ago and has been recruiting to try and anticipate the need.

“We’re getting the work done and we’ll get it done on time,” Jacques said.

90-percent of the companies who belong to AGC plan to hire workers in 2017, according to Jacques.

“Construction is a fantastic industry with great opportunities 18-28 year olds is kind of the target age we look at. If they’re willing to work, it’s a great place to be.”” Jacques said.

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