ECONOMIC CONTEXT

The Construction Workforce And Economic Development

The economic well-being of our cities and state relies heavily on the availability of a well-trained workforce in the construction industry.

Jobs for skilled construction workers in Rhode Island are expected to grow by 24% in the next five years, a statistic that translates into 2,000 new jobs each year. As our state shifts focus from new development towards redevelopment of sites in urban communities, we will need workers with the creativity and experience required to renovate historic buildings for modern tenants.

The construction sector is also a central player in addressing the ‘green’ challenges of rising energy costs, projected sea-level rise, and increased frequency of storm events. These complex projects demand strong skills, but for the first time, approximately 50% percent of the industry’s current workforce is now over the age of 45, meaning that hundreds will soon be retiring.

The metropolitan workforce has the potential to capture a growing share of middle-wage jobs in the construction sector. The construction trades are not limited to in-state projects, and Rhode Island can expand earnings opportunities for urban residents by proactively becoming a supplier of skilled construction trades people in the region.

Alternatively, if Rhode Island does not train sufficient numbers of journey-workers, Rhode Island buildings will be constructed by Massachusetts and Connecticut residents¬†– with the earnings flowing out of state. At present, the state’s construction industry is producing less than 30 percent of the skilled workers needed for the next decade.