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Energy & Environment

Shortage Of Skilled Construction Workers Impedes Petrochemical Sector Expansion Plans

Texas companies are hiking wages to lure out-of-state workers.

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The annual World Petrochemical Conference, organized by IHS Chemical, is now taking place in Houston. One of the major themes of this year’s event is the challenge posed by a shortage of skilled labor.

Texas escaped the worst effects of the housing market’s crash, but the state’s construction industry still took a beating. With building jobs scarce, many skilled workers left the industry. Now the state’s petrochemical sector is launching its biggest expansion in twenty years. The hands to build those facilities are proving hard to come by. Russell Heinen is a senior director at IHS Chemical.

“There’s concerns about, do we have the people to manage the projects. We need welders, pipefitters, electricians, boilermakers, and there’s a whole list that’s required there.”

The industry is working with unions to train more workers. In the near term, though, Texas companies have few alternatives but to offer higher wages to attract workers from out of state. Heinen says they should also expect to pay extra to retain workers — or risk losing them to competitors willing to offer more.