A labor shortage, combined with supply chain snarls and price increases on materials, has added to the ongoing construction industry crunch. And as demand for more local buildings continues to grow, the need for skilled labor grows with it.
“There are two- to three-month delays in roof trusses, appliances, HVAC equipment and aluminum. Add that to the labor shortages, and delays are compounded,” says Steve Evans, senior national training partner at Taylor Morrison, a national homebuilder and development firm with a big presence in Sarasota. “It’s affecting all projects, no matter how high-end or not.”
To deal with the dearth of labor, Taylor Morrison launched a paid, hands-on construction superintendent program called Voyager last year. The pilot program took place in Sarasota, but it moves according to area demand. Students spend roughly 60 percent of the six-week course in class and 40 percent on physical job sites. Once completed, they're provided with a phone, a laptop and a mentor, and get right to work. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a construction superintendent in Florida is $76,000. Taylor Morrison says it pays "market rate," but wouldn't provide a specific number.
So what do construction superintendents do?
“They're not swinging the hammer, but they’re handling the dirt through to a completed home,” Evans says. Superintendents coordinate the building process and make sure it’s on time. A day in the life includes scheduling workers, paying vendors and regularly meeting with customers about the progress of their new home. Once they're ready, construction superintendents manage 12 to 15 home projects in a given area.
John Harbin, 35, moved his family to Nokomis for the opportunity to participate in Voyager. Formerly in cybersecurity in Georgia, he completed his training in December of this year and enjoys the team camaraderie on a construction site, which reminds him of his military days. “We have a Voyager group text we use regularly when we have questions or need help," he says. "The environment is just so welcoming. I missed that since leaving the military."
That’s the type of tight-knit team the program aims to put together in the face of frequent turnover in a high-demand industry that often sees superintendents swapped between different builders with different expectations.
“If superintendents feel trained and supported, there’s more longevity," Evans explains. "So we train them from the ground up and immerse them in homebuilding and our company culture. They know the software we use and our process, and they're actually able to do their job without feeling lost."
Voyager welcomes trainees of varying backgrounds, from those with little to no experience, including high school graduates and veterans, to experienced construction superintendents. Locally, Taylor Morrison is building homes in Palmer Ranch, Skye Ranch, Lakewood Ranch, The Heights in North Sarasota and at Phillippi Landings.
While the program is in its early stages, with more than 300 communities across 10 states, the builder plans to grow Voyager and offer it four times a year—and eventually expand it beyond Florida.
There isn’t an online landing page for the new Voyager program, but if someone applies for a construction position at Taylor Morrison, they’re encouraged to mention the program during the application process.
“You can teach anyone to build a house. If you can get them ready before putting them in the position, it'll just lend itself to success,” says Evans.