According to the results of Associated Builders and Contractors’ 2019 Workforce Development Survey, ABC members invested $1.6 billion to educate their employees in 2018, up from $1.1 billion in 2013. The 45% increase in spending resulted in nearly twice as many course attendees—more than 980,000—receiving craft, leadership and safety education to advance their careers in commercial and industrial construction.

“The increase in spending on education demonstrates ABC member contractors’ commitment to developing employees, which is producing results in recruiting and retaining a skilled, safe and productive workforce,” said Greg Sizemore, ABC’s vice president of health, safety, education and workforce development. “With more than 90% of members reporting a worker shortage and construction spending at near-record highs, this is the time to invest in our people, expand career opportunities and secure the workforce of the future.”

ABC member contractors invest an average of $117,679, or 8.3% of payroll, on workforce development and education annually. Safety education accounted for the greatest share of spending at 48%, or $1,306 per employee. ABC contractor members provided safety education to nearly 600,000 course attendees in 2018.

Trade/craft personnel accounted for more than two-thirds of those receiving education. On average, member construction firms invest in trade/craft education for 122 employees per year at a per-person cost of $2,377. The vast majority of ABC member contractors—85%—use on-the-job training as part of their workforce development program for trade/craft employees. In addition, the number of employees enrolled in U.S. Department of Labor-registered and industry-recognized apprenticeship programs at member companies has doubled since 2013.

Overall, 30% of education was targeted at senior leaders, project managers and field managers/superintendents. The use of online education doubled from less than 10% in 2013 to more than 20% in 2018.

The survey also documented member contractors’ efforts to recruit workers across a broad demographic, including women, current high school and college students, active military and veterans, and people re-entering the workforce. Women in craft professional roles increased from 3% of the workforce to 12% between 2013 and 2018.

ABC estimates that 8.2 million people were employed by the U.S. construction industry last year, and an additional 500,000 people will need to be hired in 2019 to meet the current backlog of construction projects—which stood at to 8.8 months in February 2019, according to ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator—and future spending expectations. ABC’s latest Construction Confidence Indicator found that nearly 70% of contractors expect to increase staffing levels in the next six months.

Industry consulting firm FMI conducted the 2019 Workforce Development Survey to quantify the scope of workforce development initiatives by ABC member contractors. The survey was conducted from Jan. 8 to Feb. 19, 2019, and the response rate was 7%. Aggregated data was derived by calculating the average amount spent on education by each respondent and multiplying that by the total number of ABC contractor members.