Business and labor representatives told a legislative committee Wednesday that state help might be needed to boost the number of apprentices in the construction industry to meet an expected worker shortfall as older workers retire.

Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, told the Business and Labor Committee that he will present suggestions at a later meeting.

Jeff Anderson, apprenticeship administrator for the Operating Engineers Local 3, cited several years of statistics showing that the number of apprentices falls short of the number of retirees in the 2,500-member local union. For example, in 2007, 98 people participated in the apprenticeship program but only 14 completed it, while there were 31 retirements.

Anderson said a skilled work force is needed to help projects, both public and private, be completed on time and under budget.