Last week we told you about how the cost of building a new high school in Rawlins is running millions of dollars more than was expected. Costs are up because construction companies can’t find enough workers in Wyoming. And it isn’t easy to bring them in from out of state.
Jeremy Smith is the Business Manager for Sheridan’s School District One in Ranchester. I met him on a beautiful morning in Northern Wyoming, and he’s excited to show me the new Tongue River Elementary school--or at least the the rolling pasture where the school should be.
Too many jobs, not enough bodies. That’s the dilemma of many Wyoming construction companies these days that can’t keep up with the building demands of the state’s energy boom. An influx of Latino workers are moving to Wyoming to take up the slack. And national figures show that Hispanics lead the nation in fatal injuries. And with Wyoming having one of the worst records for workplace fatalities, the question is: are Latinos putting themselves in the line of fire?
It’s a tense public meeting in Rawlins. School District officials here recently learned that the latest contractor bid to build a new Rawlins High School is $7 million dollars over budget. Carbon County School District 1 Superintendent Fletcher Turcato says Rawlins isn’t interested in making cuts.
“Four months ago, we were within budget—and because of a bidding climate, now they want us to continue to take money out of this project,” Turcato said. “That’s not going to happen. The Board said it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to do that to the people of Rawlins.”
Construction contractors in Wyoming are struggling to find enough workers.
Wyoming Construction Coalition President Josh Carnahan says energy development -- particularly oil -- is fueling a rapid rise in construction jobs around the state.
“It impacts prices because we need to recruit employees to come in and do the work,” Carnahan says. The only way on a short term to attract employees is pay them a little higher and offer them a little better benefits.”