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A high demand for new construction puts a strain on a community lacking in skilled workers

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 5:34 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Rapid City has a high demand for all sorts of construction related projects. This normally would be great for a construction company, but right now the lack of materials, labor shortages, and a lack of skilled craftsman makes for a tricky recipe to swallow.

Mario Rangel, the President of Rangel Construction, says, “It’s just a unique time when there’s a lot of offerings of new projects. New work, that in other years, other times frames, a company like mine would be like, ‘Oh, this is great.’ But, right now I think it’s being wise and doing our best to keep track of the material availability, because we could well have plenty of work lined up, but we can’t start.”

Some of the work that needs to be done requires skilled and practiced hands to create.

“We’ve been getting a lot of applications from people that are less than skilled in the construction industry,” says Rangel.

The need for experienced workers places a burden on already employees to train others when the workload is already high for so few hands on deck.

“The shortage of skilled workers in the industry is not new. We’ve been facing that for decades. I think people often wonder, what’s the reason that there isn’t enough construction workers? To me, it’s pretty clear that often times children who are coming up through school or going to college... getting work in the skilled trades isn’t always put on a platform as something we should aspire to do,” says Rangel.

The struggle to find workers means that Rapid City construction companies are fighting over veterans and the skilled craftsman that the Rapid City market has to offer.

“There’s a little bit of a labor war, if you will. If you’re going to hire somebody that’s skilled, often they’re going to come from another company, and that company is going to lose because of it and you’re going to gain. Which,” says Rangel, “can be hard to sleep with. That’s happening locally.”

When the goal of bidding a construction project is to find the cheapest offer made by a company willing to tackle it, that means compensation for skilled craftsman, eager to put their experienced hands to work, suffers as the price drops and could be acting as a deterrent.

“You’re going to get multiple bids for your project, because you want the lowest price. But, the labor shortage is demanding that you have opportunity and growth for these people in the field. Which, means higher wages, because everything costs more. So, how do you balance that. That’s an age old question,” says Rangel, “I’m sure.”

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