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For many years, a lack of qualified tile and stone installers have plagued the construction industry. The shortage has become even more apparent with the last economic recession now in the past and a demanding economy with steady growth now present.

The tile and stone industry is facing a shortage of skilled labor, not unlike the construction industry as a whole. Minnesota lost more than 30,000 tradesmen during the last economic recession, many of whom did not and will not return. A negative stigma regarding the trades has been bred and cultivated for several decades. As a result, very few young men and women consider a profession as a skilled laborer. Instead, from a young age, they are radically pushed to attend four-year colleges and universities. As a result, teenagers across the nation are forced to make one of the biggest and perhaps most devastating financial decisions of their lives. According to Zack Friedman of Forbes Magazine, the nation faces 1.56 trillion dollars in student debt. 

If the number of qualified, skilled laborers continues to dwindle, the nationwide effects could become economically devastating. Demand for tradesmen will continue to grow over time; however, due to their shortage, they will become astronomically expensive to hire. They will only accept the most expensive jobs. This will make simple projects, like small remodels, too difficult and costly to complete. Entire cities could potentially fall into mass disrepair because it will be too costly to update and remodel.

A common discussion is that robotic technology will be developed to a level that will eliminate the need for skilled laborers. This, however, will be unattainable on a broad spectrum for the foreseeable future. Robotic technology may be able to successfully complete full, future ground up-projects if all necessary factors considered prior to work beginning. In regards to remodeling existing projects, especially old structures that contain countless issues, the industry will need to rely on skilled tradesmen until the technology is developed, which can adapt to non-conforming projects which were constructed with antiquated or nonexistent building codes.

International labor has been recently discussed as solution to the crisis. This would also be a difficult goal to accomplish in the foreseeable future. The concept would be to outsource cheap labor specifically from countries in Asia. This would require the importation of large labor forces from other countries, but more importantly the provision of temporary housing for these workers, which has been proven to work poorly. In 2008, thousands of laborers from around the country flocked to North Dakota to work on the oil rigs of the Bakken Formation. As a result of this immigration, the cities and towns reportedly suffered dramatic increases in crime, illness and fatalities making it the least safe place to work in the country across all industries, according to Tim McDonnel of Mother Jones.

The solution to preventing this from happening is simple: The leaders of the construction industry need to be more resolute and relentless to attract workers. Just as the colleges and universities have ruthlessly targeted and marketed to past and current generation, the same must now come from the construction industry. Many construction companies provide outstanding opportunities for their employees, including benefits, education, debt relief and much more. The value needs to be made clear and spoken as clearly as that of the industries pulling workers away from the trades.


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