Workforce development continues to be a major issue facing the construction industry. The fact that it has remained a top issue for the past several years shows it is not going away, and solutions are slow to come.
When we talk to construction company clients and ask them how it’s going, many of them say, “we are busy, but we can’t find the people we need to keep up with the work.” Their employees are nearing retirement, and finding younger workers is difficult. Experienced employees also find it difficult to train new hires.
In the past, if the companies had the work, they could hire experienced people and ramp up their capacity very quickly – even if it meant raising the wages to attract the talent they needed. Today, with margins on jobs being so tight, companies just don’t have the flexibility to offer higher wages. Many believe that even if they did, they still would have trouble staffing the right people.
How did we get here?
As a society, we told our children to go to college – that it was the best way to guarantee career success. This has ultimately diminished the pool of people who would have chosen to pursue trades like construction.
What can we, as an industry and on an individual company level, do differently to continue to succeed?
Brush Up on Gen Z
Attracting Millennials to construction may have been difficult, but Gen Z (those born 1996-2009) is beginning to reach adulthood, and they may prove to be better prospects. While Gen Z shares a lot in common with the Millennials, they do have some major differences in values – especially when it comes to working.
Gen Z grew up in an unstable economy and are much more frugal than their Millennial counterparts. Construction companies can capitalize on Gen Z’s desire for job and financial security by emphasizing the high-paying salaries and variety of opportunities available. In addition, while many mentorship and apprenticeship programs were dialed back during the recession, the re-emergence of these programs could stimulate participation from this younger generation and give them more access to the industry.
Continue to Prepare for Future Generations
Companies should focus on increasing awareness in their communities of the career opportunities construction provides. Trade associations are holding career fairs, workshops, and more with kids of all ages, even down to elementary schools. The companies that get involved with these activities build brand awareness and can start to develop relationships with future employees. This can help change the mindset of potential candidates, leading them to consider construction as a good option for long-term employment. Developing scholarship programs and internship programs at local colleges, universities, and trade schools can also encourage students on these paths and help you gain access to them earlier.
This is just the beginning. There are many ways construction companies can address the workforce shortage. If you have questions about how to implement any of these practices into your company, please feel free to contact Stephen Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org.