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State of the Construction Industry: July 2021 Roundup
July proved that just because contractors are hard at work in the field during the peak of building season, construction industry news away from the jobsite doesn’t slow down. Big news about the status of a construction infrastructure spending package, how materials shortages are impacting work and empowering young women for construction careers are just some of the stories we followed this month.
Latest on the Construction Infrastructure Bill:
For moments over the past six months, it looked like any infrastructure proposal as part of the White House’s American Jobs Plan was in danger of failing, with both sides of the political aisle clashing on exactly what should be included and where funding would come from. As of July 28, however, it looks like a $1.2 trillion package is back on track.
"We now have agreement on the major issues. We are prepared to move forward," Reuters quoted Senator Rob Portman, the lead Republican negotiator in infrastructure talks, after his July 28 meeting with House Minority Leader Mitch McConnel. Full details of the agreement are still being finalized, but the latest package is reported to include $110 billion for roads, $65 billion to expand broadband access and $47 billion for environmental resiliency.
The Takeaway: This is good news for the construction industry, which has been waiting with bated breath to see how any infrastructure spending bill will shake out. We’ve been closely following all aspects of the American Jobs Plan with our Construction Infrastructure Resource Center. Here, folks can follow the latest news stories, get industry perspectives on infrastructure needs in construction and learn how contractors can best prepare their organizations to meet modern infrastructure contractual and project demands.
Contractors Grappling with Materials Shortages
There is no shortage of construction and infrastructure projects to be done, but there is a shortage of essential building materials. Between the pandemic, tariffs and trade agreements, weather, labor issues and more, the available supply chain and demand for construction materials needed to get jobs done has been a turbulent ride. Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction recently broke down some of the issues around materials shortages affecting its asphalt and paving contractor audience in this article.
Pricing of all forms of construction materials has been one of the biggest challenges. Supply constraints are costing contractors much more money up front to acquire the resources they need. As the article notes, contractors are tightening their own internal controls in response, looking for stronger job costing to better factor price increases into bid packages and ways to reduce costly rework and material waste on jobsites.
The Takeaway: Business challenges like these are not going away any time soon for contractors. It’s yet another reason contractors should be modernizing their operations in order to work with real-time data and to make quicker, smarter project decisions — including stronger material management workflows. Digitized, connected construction data and workflows allow contractors to be more agile when hit with business disruptions, as well as better forecast and plan for future work so that impacts from disruptions are lessened.
Construction Summer Camp: Girl Power Edition
WPVI News in Philadelphia highlighted a special hands-on construction summer camp being held in the city. The Mentoring Young Women in Construction camp is a free, six-day camp available to girls in the 7th through 12th grades that introduces young women to the basics of the construction industry, identifies career opportunities, provides them with skills workshops and more. The camp partners with several local trade unions as well, bringing in mentors and leaders from each to help run the camp.
“Construction is a very large industry where you can make a career as an engineer or an architect or a project manager, and women need to see themselves in those roles,” Mary Gaffney from the National Association of Women in Construction told WPVI. "Here they get to see women in the trades doing those jobs.”
The Takeaway: This is a really cool concept, and we need more programs like this. Reaching out to and directly interacting with these young women does two things. First, it helps foster diversity by showing that women belong in — and play a vital role in — the construction workforce. Secondly, by connecting with, mentoring and building relationships with these young ladies in high school, it helps increase appeal of the construction industry to younger professionals as a whole - something the industry has struggled with as part of its ongoing skilled worker shortage.
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