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Construction & Design

Contractors urge Congress to back plan for temporary worker visa program

The nation’s contractors are urging Congress to back a plan to create a temporary worker visa that could help ease a skilled tradesmen shortage.
Pennsylvania Congressmen Lloyd Smucker last week introduced the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act that would create the first ever temporary visa authorization for construction workers.

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, said, “The shortage of available, qualified, workers in many parts of the country threatens to undermine continued economic growth.

“Creating a temporary, flexible, worker visa system will allow all types of economic development to proceed without costly delays caused by workforce shortages.”

Some 80 percent of construction firms reported last year they were having a hard time finding qualified workers to hire.

Sandherr said the association has long advocated for a temporary worker visa system for the construction sector that allows for more workers during periods when labor is scarce, but lowers the number of visas during slower economic cycles.

The association official added that the new legislative proposal will help reduce illegal immigration by creating a more viable path for qualified construction workers to enter the country when demand rises and leave when demand subsides.

“This measure will help put an end to an immigration system that creates too many incentives for workers to illegally enter the country while also boosting economic growth.”

Thirty-seven states added construction jobs between February 2018 and February 2019, although construction employment increased in only 16 states between January and February, according to the latest frigures from AGC.

Association officials said the slowdown may reflect the impact of widespread severe weather on construction last month as well as a growing shortage of qualified workers.

“The record number of job openings in construction reported in the government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for January shows that finding qualified construction workers is still a challenge,” stated chief economist Ken Simonson.

“Contractors continue to struggle to find enough qualified workers to hire in order to keep pace with demand for construction,” added Sandherr. “Allowing employers to bring in guest workers for positions that can’t be filled otherwise is essential to keep the economy expanding.”

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