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Survey: 54% of residential contractors say skilled labor gap is holding down revenues

TOWSON, Md. — A new survey released from DEWALT, a Stanley Black & Decker brand, found more than half of U.S. contractors (55%) feel a lack of skilled workers is a barrier to growing their current business. That number rises to 69% among businesses with $10MM plus annual revenue and 64% among those with 20 years or more of experience. Looking to the future, 48% believe training the next generation of trades professionals is one of the most critical needs for the success of the construction industry in 2023.
“The DEWALT Powering the Future Survey sheds further light on the wide-reaching gap in skilled labor and its continued impact on the residential and commercial construction industries. Add to that the overwhelming demand for trades expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic and the [skilled-labor] gap is quickly becoming the most critical need that will dictate the future success of the field,” said Allison Nicolaidis, president, Power Tools Group, Stanley Black & Decker. “That’s why DEWALT is committed to putting a heavier spotlight on these challenges and taking a lead role in supporting our industrial and construction partners to overcome them. DEWALT will further its commitment to closing the skills deficit with the launch of the DEWALT Trade Scholarship to support trades education programs for students across the country.”

Inflation, Insufficient Skilled Labor, and Long Hours are Top Challenges

Keeping up with inflation (57%), finding skilled workers/being understaffed (51%) and working long hours (37%) are the top three most significant challenges that U.S. contractors surveyed are currently facing. When it comes to the effects those challenges are having on the industry, an overwhelming majority of contractors—93%—feel the lack of skilled workers has had at least a minor impact on their existing work.
Half of those contractors who have had their work impacted by the labor shortage (50%) cite the primary causes for the gap as a lack of awareness around career paths in construction, followed by outside influences (parents, media, etc.) that guide younger people away from pursuing a career in the industry (47%), as well as an underestimation of how much money can be made in the industry (41%).

Mentorship Matters

A great deal of importance is placed on mentorship programs regardless of contractor level, tenure, or type, with 67% of all contractors labeling these programs as extremely important with an additional 24% identifying these programs as moderately important. A larger majority of contractors with extensive experience (20+ years) or high business revenue ($10MM or more) find these programs to be extremely important (71% and 78% respectively) in providing the latest training to help young professionals prepare for onsite work. In addition, more than half (53%) of contractors surveyed say mentorship increases excitement about construction as a career path.

Health and Wellbeing are Essential

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors have experienced numerous changes in the industry. According to the survey, the number one takeaway (39%) from the pandemic among contractors is the importance of employee mental health and wellbeing.
Most contractors (56%) have been working more hours since 2019, with mechanical (68%), plumbing (66%) and electrical (60%) contractors more likely to have seen an increase in labor hours since the pandemic began. Nearly 40% of all contractors surveyed say longer hours have made their jobs more difficult.

2023 Forecast

Half of contractors (48%) identify training the next generation of workers as one of the most critical industry focus areas in 2023 and beyond. Seasoned contractors are particularly committed to training the next generation of workers, with 63% of those in the industry for 20 or more years indicating this is a paramount goal for the future. The second and third most critical elements for growth are contingency planning/risk management and resilient supply chain solutions (both 37%).
Also indicated as an important element of future success is the innovation of tools and equipment (33%). With tool advancements, 55% of contractors feel they have increased efficiency, half (51%) state they have increased user control, and over a third (36%) think it has improved the quality of work.

Empowering Careers in Construction and the Trades

As part of its commitment to empower the next generation of workers, DEWALT has opened the DEWALT Trades Scholarship, which will award students with a $5,000 grant in pursuance of a skilled trade educational program for the 2023-2024 academic year. Eligible candidates include high school seniors, graduates, or current undergraduate students majoring in a degree/certificate program such as trade construction, motor/power specializations, mechanics, or technology. To learn more about this opportunity and apply by February 8, visit

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