According to a survey conducted by the Associated Contractors of America, an overwhelming majority of construction firms planning to expand their payrolls in 2015 (see survey results: "Ready to Hire Again: The 2015 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook" - PDF). When asked, contractors reported they expect demand to grow or remain stable in virtually every market segment, and they feel confident enough in the market holding strong to risk buying or leasing new equipment again. Stephen E. Sandherr, the ACG’s CEO comments. “Indeed, if their predictions prove true, industry employment could expand this year by the most in a decade.”

Except there's a huge gorilla in the room that everyone is staring at: Skilled labor shortages are widespread and getting worse:  According to the AGC survey, 87% of respondants reported having a hard time filling key professional and craft worker positions. More than three-quarters (76%) of the firms that are hiring report having a hard time finding qualified craft workers to fill vacancies, while 62% say the same about professional positions such as project managers, supervisors and estimators.

In an effort to retain professional positions, 51% of firms report they have increased base pay rates, and a quarter of firms have improved their benefits packages. To retain skilled craft workers already on the payroll, 46% of respondents have rasied pay rates, and one-in-five firms have improved benefits. Despite these pay and benefits increases, many firms report they are losing workers, primarily to other industries.

Not surprisingly, most contractors feel the shortage of skilled craft workers is due to a poor or non-exisitent pipeline for preparing new workers for the trades. It' easy to see the problem but what are the solutions?

The AGC report points to some solutions expected to overcome the shortages, including  "lean construction principles," which are gaining more traction in the commercial and industrial sectors than in residential. More contractors are also turning towards  prefab and modular solutions, which do seem to be gaining a slight toehold in residential.

What are your plans for growth in 2015, and how do you expect to overcome the shortfall of skilled workers? Tell us: What's an industry to do?