By the time you read this, the Los Angeles Rams and U.S.C. Trojans will have moved into their football home for the 2019-20 season, the newly renovated United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The new look at the 96-year-old facility dedicated to the memory of World War I heroes and the $310 million price tag was privately funded, albeit with a 15 percent cost overrun from the original estimate. 

Another nice thing is that completion of the project has freed up the 2,600+ construction workers who have toiled on this job. It’s good because the Southern California construction market is on fire with billions and billions of dollars worth of projects are underway or on the way, pushing demand for skilled labor. Our workforce, while increasing, is also stretched.

The big projects waiting for those workers include the $1.5- billion Manchester Pacific Gateway project in San Diego, with three million square feet of office space including a 17-story Class A office building for the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet headquarters.

Three transportation projects are big: the $1.37-billion Westside Purple Line Extension Section 2 project in Los Angeles; the $1.1-billion 405 Improvement in Orange County; and the $673 million I-10 Corridor project.

Other projects on the list for this year include the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project Phase II in Kern County, a $241-million upgrade to one of the nation’s most at-risk dams; the Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Pasadena’s Caltech, a 150,000 square foot building to house labs, offices lecture halls. Just announced is a $1.65 billion effort to finish the highspeed rail project in the Central Valley, with 130 miles of track and other accouterment like overhead electrification towers to power the new bullet trains that are on order for the nascent rail scheme.

Biggest Construction Boom in Decades 

The truth is that we are in the middle of the biggest construction boom in decades, and it is starting to tax resources, especially the human resources of our members. The state Employment Development Department reported in May that construction employment had reached 889,700 workers, up by 32,000 from May of last year. At the peak of the last boom in 2006, there were 940,000 people employed in our industry.

The pitfalls of scraping the bottom of the workforce barrel are the challenges of the quality and costs of these new employees. The real cost concerns aren’t as much about pay scale, but skills, productivity and safety issues.

That’s why we are worried. 

By Brendan Slagle, ECA President Email: [email protected]