Curing Florida's Construction Crunch

Builders hope a new state training program will solve their construction crunch and help thousands of people find good paying jobs.

Florida’s building boom plus all the rebuilding from two devastating hurricane seasons has created a massive shortage of construction workers. Roofing contractor Ralph Davis says jobs that used to take him three weeks now take six weeks to finish because he’s having such a hard time finding workers.

Ralph Davis with Streamline Roofing and Construction says, "There is a ton of work. There is a bunch of people who want a lot of work done. There’s just not the quality people or skilled people to get the job done."

More jobs are unfilled in the construction industry than in any other business sector in Florida. There are nearly 14,000 job vacancies statewide right now.

The state is launching a free training program called Florida Rebuilds. People who want to work will go through a kind of construction boot camp to learn some basic skills in roofing, masonry, concrete work, plumbing, you name it.

In return, Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings says they’ll get jobs with starting salaries about double minimum wage.

"We’re not under the impression or the illusion that we’re going to bring people in off the street and immediately turn them into seasoned roofers or seasoned carpenters, but we need workers so badly," Jennings says.

Builders hope Florida officials will do more than just post a Web site and a toll-free number. They want to see a real outreach effort in the neighborhoods to get people excited about training for a good paying job that will pay dividends for the whole state.

State officials plan to train 10,000 workers and help them find entry level construction jobs through the Florida Rebuilds program.

The state is already spending $6 million on the program, with another $12 million for the coming year.