• October 24, 2014

Area contractors say they face labor shortages during the summer

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Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 4:30 am

Associated General Contractors of America released a plan this month to bring more qualified workers to the field. Central Texas is a step ahead of the program, because of the Killeen Independent School District’s Career Center.

According to Arlington, Va.-based AGCA, those in the building industry said two-thirds of construction firms have a hard time finding skilled laborers.

Area labor shortages

Several Killeen-area construction contractors said they either see qualified labor force shortages during busy times of the year, the summer months, or none at all.

“It just depends on the time of the year and how busy everyone is,” said Linda Hutto, human resources administrator of Harker Heights-based R.K. Bass Electric.

“Summer is coming up, and people are doing more remodels and need electrical work. It may be harder to get (qualified workers) in to apply.”

Larger projects, such as the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, can contribute to a shortage in qualified workers, too, because they require more personnel, Hutto said.

Robert Stefek, owner and a partner of Stefek and Sears, a general contractor, said R.K. Bass Electric’s predicament isn’t uncommon among his subcontractors. However, Stefek and Sears hasn’t experienced shortages itself.

While the labor shortfall is limited in the Killeen area, Stefek fears a skilled labor force will start to shrink here as it is nationally.

“Over the years, I have seen the pass-down of knowledge in the building industry stop happening,” he said.

Reforms, spending increases urged

The national organization urged significant reforms and spending increases for federal career and technical education programs, along with measures to make it easier for firms and local associations to train new workers.

The association is pushing for measures to make it easier to establish new charter schools and career academies focused on skills-based training like Killeen ISD’s Career Center.

R.K. Bass Electric will recruit some of its laborers and apprentices from programs at the Killeen ISD center, Hutto said.

“We have gone to trade centers out there looking for part-time help,” she said. The company also used Vista College and Central Texas College to find employees.

The career center’s construction management program is structured so students can get all the basics in the field, said Killeen ISD Superintendent Robert Muller.

The center also offers welding, and a variety of other technical and certification programs.

“The intent behind this facility is to get specialized training,” Muller said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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