As Valley workers struggle to find affordable housing, local and national agencies seek solutions to an ongoing labor shortage some experts believe is helping drive up apartment rental prices.
The ABI Multifamily Apartment Brokerage & Advisory Firm yesterday released its market report for the third quarter, revealing sharp year-over-year increases in both per-unit and square footage prices in the Phoenix Metro area.
Compared to this quarter last year, the average cost rose 20.7% to $167,456 per unit; while the square-foot price jumped 21% from $164 to nearly $199.
According to Roland Murphy, ABI’s director of research in Phoenix, a key reason for skyrocketing rents is an unquenchable demand for new apartments exacerbated by an historic dearth of qualified construction workers.
“The Phoenix market consistently needs to deliver 2,500 more units a year than it manages and labor is the number one issue holding that back,” Mr. Murphy said. “Costs per worker are certainly high, but I don’t know of a single developer who wouldn’t pay premium above industry standard rate if they could get framers and drywall hangers on site to run their jobs.”
He said other considerations, such as rising prices for land and construction materials, are also to blame; but labor costs driven by the worker shortage are of paramount concern.
“The hindrance to meeting demand is first, foremost, and for the foreseeable future at any rate of pay too few people swinging too few hammers,” Mr. Murphy said. “Land and materials costs are significant and will continue to be ongoing, but 30 years of market demand negligence in terms of talent development and needed skills are every bit as big a factor, if not more.”
One local agency working to fill the need is the Arizona Department of Transportation, which recently expanded its industry training programs.
The agency recently reported graduation of the first cohort from its newly expanded Construction Academy, which offers a two-week, full-time option as well as a 16-week night school to prepare workers for highway construction jobs.
“ADOT created its Construction Academy programs to remove barriers to careers in highway construction for women, minorities, veterans and members of economically disadvantaged groups, including those who are out of work,” the agency stated in a Nov. 4 release.
Students in the two-week program can earn certification to work as flaggers on highway construction projects, get commercial driver licenses, and complete the required 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety training for entry-level positions.
Trainees also learn about construction math, reading construction plans, work readiness and resume building to prepare them for industry jobs and further training.
The agency covers training costs and fees and provides job-readiness training as well as job-search support. Those with perfect attendance can also get free gear from ADOT, including hand tools, tool belts and hard hats.
Learn more at azdot.gov/Academy.
For those seeking advancement in construction careers, federal and local officials track and report on thousands of current apprenticeship opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s website apprenticeship.gov provides a searchable database, which serves as a bulletin board for training gigs in communities across the nation.
A recent search revealed 86 such opportunities, including positions for apprentices seeking training to become mechanics, pipefitters, plumbers, carpenters, sheet metal workers, HVAC technicians, electricians and roadway construction workers, among other roles.
Closer to home, the Department of Economic Security’s Arizona Apprenticeship Office links job seekers to registered apprenticeship programs providing training along with payed positions, which can lead to a nationally recognized industry certification.
“An apprenticeship is not just a job, it is a career. Graduates who successfully complete their apprenticeship training will receive nationally recognized completion certificate,” officials stated at the agency’s website, des.az.gov.
The department’s list of registered apprenticeships includes opportunities around Arizona in a variety of fields.
In addition to construction jobs, there are trainee positions in health care, information technology, cyber security, advanced manufacturing and business services.
For example, the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association offers the International Training Fund’s Apprenticeship Program, which trains entry-level workers and provides continuing training for those already in the field.
“If you’re looking for a career in a skilled trade with good wages and benefits and lifelong work in a fulfilling profession, you can earn as you learn to be a plasterer or cement mason,” the group stated at its website, opcmia.org.
The DES apprenticeship office currently lists 40 such registered apprenticeship programs seeking applicants in communities across the state.