Montana Sees Shortage in Construction Workers - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montana Sees Shortage in Construction Workers

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MISSOULA -

The number of construction projects across Montana are on the rise, but contractors are facing a shortage of workers.

Operations Manager at Jackson Contractor Group, Bill Fritz, said it's called a "trade gap."

"Right now, for every four people that leave the trades, we're only seeing one go back into the trades," Fritz explained.

And that void means Fritz, and the workers he can find, will have a hard time keeping up with the 35-40 projects they'll tackle this summer.

"We could have 100 projects throughout, but we just can't man them."

Fritz said at the peak of construction season, he'll have about 150 people on staff, but those workers are stretched across the entire state.

The shortage started back during the economic downturn.

"We saw a lot of the tradesmen leave the trade altogether or they went over to the Bakken chasing the big oil money," Fritz said.

Others headed north to the Alberta oil sands or south to the oil boom in Wyoming. But the economy has recovered, and Fritz says commercial and residential development projects are on the rise in Montana.

"We're trying to put them together with less skilled workers, or even just finding someone that has a lot of energy and wants to learn."

And Fritz said many Montana construction workers and tradesmen are quickly approaching retirement age.

"You know, right now they're saying the average construction worker is over 49-years-old."

Fritz said Jackson is partnering with Missoula Job Services and Missoula College on a training program to produce young, skilled workers.

"We can start encouraging kids from the high school level as looking at getting into construction or the trades," Fritz said.

Jackson also offers an apprenticeship program for anyone looking to enter a trade or construction.

Contractors at Jackson said workers who complete their apprenticeship program can make $40-50,000 per year.

They're currently taking applications for that program and for experienced carpenters at their location at 5800 Highway 93 South.

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