Wildfire rebuild adds to skilled labor shortage

July 31, 2017: Homebuilders across the state are seeing major construction delays as Sevier County works to rebuild from the wildfires.

Home builders are seeing major construction delays as Sevier County works to rebuild from the wildfires. 

Andy Graf, supervisor for DuPree-Graf Construction, said there was already a shortage of skilled workers after the recession, but the problem has only multiplied after the wildfires. 

"There is a lack of people available to get those jobs done right now," Graf said. 

Contractors for heating and air conditioning, electricians, dry wall workers, masons and framing work are all needed right now, Graf said. Now that the home building industry has bounced back, his company is receiving plenty of work, but they are having to turn down jobs because there aren't enough sub-contractors available. 

"The houses that we build typically take a year, and year has turned into 14-15 months," Graf said. 

Julie DuPree, owner and builder for DuPree-Graf Construction, said they previously were able to schedule skilled workers simultaneously on the job site. Now, there may be a lag time of a couple of weeks between phases of construction because workers are in such high demand. 

DuPree also said a lot of skilled laborers did not come back to the home building industry when the economy bounced back. She said there is a need for schools to teach these trades to get young people interested in the construction field. 

"We would love to see the high schools offer more vocational programs to get younger children more interested in the industry," she said. 

Chris and George Georgiafandis are working with DuPree-Graf Construction to build their dream retirement home. 

The couple knew going into the process that it might take a while to build due to the labor shortage, but they said they are willing to wait for the right sub-contractors to get the job done right. 

"Know what you're getting into," George said. "Know that you have to be patient. Know that it's going to take time."

The couple's house has already had a two-week delay between the foundation and framing stages, but they said it will all be worth it when they can move into their forever home a year from now.

"We're looking forward to that day to come in here and be able to call it our home," George said. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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