The Construction Labor Shortage
A combination of factors has led to the industry’s current labor shortage. Alongside the generational perception that has made it difficult to recruit young workers to the construction trades, there has been tremendous growth in demand for workers due to a steady pipeline of new projects. Projects that were put on hold during the Great Recession are breaking ground. New projects include large scale infrastructure building and repair totaling $800 billion annually, according to the US Treasury Infrastructure Report, as well as an increased demand for housing and office space in job centers such as New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area and Austin (Construction: 5 Boom Cities of 2018).
The lack of young workers to help handle the booming pipeline presents a significant problem for the construction industry. National Association of Home Builders reports that, “more than four out of five builders expect to face serious challenges regarding the cost and availability of labor.”
Construction Jobs: A Surprisingly Lucrative and Rewarding Career Path
As the labor shortage in construction intensifies, salaries are going up. US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites the median pay for construction managers at $94,000 in 2018. But salaries alone will not ensure a steady stream of new workers. Recasting the industry to appeal to a more tech savvy and diverse labor pool is critical.
With no signs of slowing down, the labor shortage is actually an opportunity to craft a new approach to recruiting and retaining a new generation of workers. These workers are likely to be more responsive to training and new technology that is fostering innovation and growth within the industry.
Here are five key strategies to recruit and retain new talent:
- Leverage young people’s interest in technology by integrating applications company-wide, particularly in the field, where workers are most needed.
- Utilize technology to create and support collaboration. This generation was raised on instant open communication and expects information sharing to be quick, easy and cooperative.
- Use technology to support flexibility in how people work. High tech firms have set an expectation for greater freedom, and construction can follow suit. New platforms allow communications and data sharing from anywhere and can allow for certain types of work to be done remotely, even in construction.
- Get the word out that your firm is tech savvy, and provides ongoing training and support. Become known as a leader in technology adoption and your ability to attract young workers will improve.
- Finally, look in all the right places for your new hires. The industry is changing, and ideal candidates might be those that can be developed right out of high school or who have tried another career path. Labor shortages and increased pipelines call for new methods of finding candidates, and new technology platforms make finding young workers easier than ever.
- As the reputation of the construction industry improves, it will be possible to recast it in the eyes of a generation of new workers. With its upward mobility and potential for lifelong employment, construction is ripe with opportunity. The ability to work for defined time periods and on a project by project basis adds to the appeal of the industry to a generation that does not define its identity by work. Combined with better wages and more tech-friendly workplaces, construction rises as exciting alternative to working in a cubicle.