Fluor addresses workforce challenges for future US megaprojects

20 March 2013 23:07  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Gulf Coast region is going to need about 20,000 skilled workers to construct planned megaprojects that are projected to total approximately $55bn (€43bn) over the next five years, an engineering firm said on Wednesday.

“If you look into 2014, ’15, '16, we need approximately double the amount of craftsmen to build these projects than we did before,” said Richard Meserole, vice president of operations and general manager of Fluor in Houston, Texas.

“Well, you’re not going to get these craftsman just by snapping your fingers, and they’re going to come locally from the market,” he said during the IHS World Petrochemical Conference.

Meserole said finding construction labourers is a challenge because the profession is “not culturally something [that is] part of the fabric in the United States as it was 30 years ago”.

As a result, fewer people are entering the construction industry, and the workers currently in the industry are aging, he said. In addition, the craftsmen entering the construction business do not have the same knowledge as the previous workforce.

Hence, finding enough workers that have the knowledge and qualifications for the job is a big issue, Meserole said.

“The United States market for craft workers is a little different from other parts of the world,” he said. “If you go to the Middle East or if you go to Africa, you can import labour, a significant amount of labour, to do those jobs.”

However, US workers are mobile and transient, as they travel from one job site to another, seeking the opportunities that provide the best work environment for them.

In order to attract quality labourers, project managers need to provide workers with attractive compensation – not only in wages, but also in benefits, proper management and other incentives.

Meserole said the most expensive and biggest challenge for Fluor clients was productivity, or the amount of work that a craftsman can do every day.

He explained that if a project costs about $2bn, then about $1bn is spent on the jobsite. If the workers are only half as productive, that project will now cost the company $3bn.

“Retention of crafts is a big issue," Meserole said. “It costs, rounded number, $10,000 every time you have to take on another craft worker. If your job requires 6,000 craft workers, and you start doing the math, it gets to some big numbers.”

The IHS World Petrochemical Conference runs through Thursday.

($1 = €0.78)

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By: Tracy Dang
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