Colorado faces massive shortage of construction workers. A fix won’t be easy.

This story started as a small press release with one line that sparked the curiosity of my editor. A Denver-based home builder was partnering to bring a construction academy to Denver, the first of its kind, but in one sentence they noted that Colorado home builders were having an incredibly difficult time finding enough labor. So, I spent weeks interviewing construction executives and construction workers, combing through state unemployment data and researching the history of the construction industry.

First I thought it was a story about a shortage of home builders in Denver. Then I thought it was a story about a shortage of construction workers in Denver. Then I realized it was all of Colorado and all of construction. The finished product was a Sunday 1A story that took a holistic perspective of how the state’s booming real estate market and a lack of affordable housing created a cycle of labor shortages and high prices across the state.


 

In a large warehouse that smells of freshly cut wood in north Denver, 20 adults — including a refugee family from Somalia, a math teacher and a laid-off retail worker — gather in the unfinished frame of a house to take notes on the Pythagorean theorem.

They are hoping that the equation, along with other basic measuring principles, will help them find work at the end of an eight-week construction course.

“When the market crashed in 2008, a lot of people were forced to do something else. Now that the industry is booming, there’s really not that quality craftsmanship anymore,” said Tim Reyna, who enrolled in the class at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy after he lost his retail job. “I definitely think there’s a ton of opportunity.”

As far as the construction industry is concerned, Reyna and his classmates can’t hit the job market quickly enough. Industry officials in Colorado say the shortage of skilled laborers is at a crisis level. They need people now — to build homes, malls, office buildings and roads.

Read the rest of the story at denverpost.com

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