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May
2014
15

Dubious Study Claiming US Labor Shortage Fiercely Challenged by Building Trades Leader

BCTD President Sean McGarvey

BCTD President Sean McGarvey


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The Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO is questioning a widely circulated report from Manpower, Inc. which claims that the North American energy industry is in the throes of a workforce crisis at both the skilled labor and management levels.  The authenticity of the report’s findings are being challenged by the coalition of unions who argue that they are manufactured to help Manpower sell its services.  They are also predicting that the report foreshadows a massive push by the business community to get American lawmakers to increase the number of temporary foreign worker H-1B and H-2B visas available to employers.  

Manpower, Inc.’s numbers do not pass even the most meager of smell tests, however, according to a BCTD press release:

The unions’ criticism is directed mainly at the claims of skilled labor shortages, and stems mostly from the fact that Manpower bases its conclusions upon a survey that consisted of only 17 telephone interviews with industry executives, coupled with 76 responses to an online survey that was sent to over 6,000 energy company executives.

Sean McGarvey, President of the BCTD, questioned the methodology, validity and motivations of the “study”:

“It is absolutely stunning to me that the media is giving credence to survey results that were based upon a miniscule sample size.  I always find it interesting when companies that have a product to sell, and in the case of Manpower Inc. it’s worker recruitment services, always manage to somehow magically produce a report that suggests an emergency or crisis that can be solved by, you guessed it, the services that they provide. And it’s even more incredible to me when respected media outlets report it as fact without once ever considering that the source of the report is inherently biased.”

As we wrote last week, new figures from the Economic Policy Institute debunk claims of a worker shortage. Wages are stagnant, which would be atypical of a circumstance in which worker demand was rising. Further, the EPI report shows that employment among skilled construction craft professionals is more than 1.7 million jobs below its pre-recession peak and that the number of unemployed construction workers outnumbers the number of job openings in the construction industry by a seven-to-one ratio.

McGarvey concedes that a future labor shortage is not entirely far-fetched but insists that at present any assertion of a workforce crisis is without merit:

“Does the potential exist for the energy industry to experience workforce challenges in the near future?  You bet,” said McGarvey.  ”But to proffer the idea that there is a ‘crisis,’ and to base it upon a shameful, self-serving study, is not doing anyone any favors.  Through thoughtful, collaborative planning with our clients and partners in the energy industry, our unions are tailoring our training infrastructure to be in a position to meet any future challenges in a reasoned and factual manner.  Workforce development cannot be achieved through a ‘just-in-time’ managerial philosophy.  It’s not like making widgets.  Developing a safe, productive and highly skilled workforce requires a long-term approach involving time, resources and investments.”

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