The construction industry is facing a shortage of both labor and skills. More than half of all construction companies are having a difficult time filling salaried and hourly craft positions.
Among the reasons for this shortage are a lack of new entrants into the field. Careers in the skilled crafts are not as popular of an option as they were 30 years ago, with most of today’s high school graduates choosing to go to college for a four-year degree rather than learn a trade. The result has been higher demand for skilled work than there are skilled workers. And as the current members of the industry age – 53% of the construction workforce will retire by 2036 – the skills gap and labor shortages will continue to grow.
Now more than ever, construction companies need to recruit. Not just for their own staff, but for the entire industry. It’s important to showcase working in the skilled trades is a viable, exciting and dignified career option with numerous benefits and opportunities.
Here’s how your company can more proactively recruit new talent into the construction industry.
Before your company can truly start recruiting new talent, you need to consider your perspective on workforce development and where your team needs to be – not just now, but in five years, 10 years, and even further into the future.
Your strategy for maintaining a supply of talent in your company cannot solely be based on hoping experienced and skilled professionals will be available to hire on the open market or by attracting them from another company. Many companies only want to hire people that already have years of experience, because that’s what they need right now.
With the current realities of the labor pool, that mindset is simply not sustainable.
If the construction industry as a whole is to remain healthy and strong for the long term, it needs to adopt a long-term perspective. Making the training of new entrants to the field a priority and establishing a talent pipeline will pay massive dividends in the future.
Think about this: It typically takes about 3-4 years for a trainee to complete an apprenticeship and 8-12 years to become a fully trained craft professional. If a company had decided 5-10 years ago to invest in a training and development program, it could currently have a full staff of trained and prepared journeymen – instead of now dealing with a worker shortage.
If your company already has workforce development systems in place – keep it up! If your company has yet to set up the infrastructure for training, it’s time to start. Even small companies can set up a program. Here are some helpful ideas and resources:
When we talk to students or other people who we want to encourage to start a career in construction, a common tactic is to showcase the benefits of such a career – the “why” someone should be interested in becoming a craft professional.
One of the big benefits that the construction industry already highlights well is the wages. There’s a lot of money to be made in construction, and salaries are continuing to climb as employers try to attract new workers or retain current ones.
Money is certainly a major factor in a career choice, and financial security is a key consideration for Gen Z and late millennials who have grown up seeing the effects of the Great Recession of the late 2000s, the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing crisis of student debt.
That being said, it’s important that construction wages are not the only benefit that the construction industry highlights.
Having seen the economic hardships mentioned above, many younger people have grown up almost under an assumption that their starting salary probably won’t be that great regardless of their career choice or where they are employed. Because of this, other aspects of a job have increased in importance in their mind. Job satisfaction isn’t just about getting paid, but also about:
If the construction industry focuses too much of their recruitment messaging on how much money someone can make, it can come across as money being the only reason someone should look at a career in construction.
Of course, we know there are many more great reasons to go into the skilled trades. The opportunity to leave a lasting legacy through your work. The chance to contribute to the needs of a community. Chances to travel to new places. Being able to work with your hands and see the fruits of your labor come to life in front of your eyes. If we can bring more attention to these other positive elements, it shows construction as a well-rounded experience.
Construction is an interesting field and with the right perspective can appeal to many types of people. The industry should avoid restricting itself when it comes to talking about all the benefits.
Diversity and inclusion is a growing point of emphasis in our world. It’s especially something that younger generations value highly, as 77% of Gen Z said that a company’s diversity level affects their decision to work there.
While the industry has taken steps toward becoming more inclusive, construction has traditionally been and still remains one of the least diverse professions. Women only make up about 10% of the construction workforce, while some minority groups such as Blacks and Asian Americans remain underrepresented.
As construction continues to face workforce shortages, recruiting more from these groups represents not only a social responsibility, but also a great opportunity.
But with the existing stigma and stereotypes that surround construction, recruiting from gender and ethnic minorities can be a challenge. In sort of a “chicken or the egg” scenario, minority groups will be more hesitant to join construction until more people like them comprise a greater footprint in the industry.
To start that process, it’s important for people from all backgrounds to be able to see themselves in your marketing and recruitment efforts. Showcasing diversity through pictures and imagery; highlighting employees of all genders, races, orientations and abilities; and using inclusive language are all important components of any construction recruitment strategy.
Construction is very much an old dog learning new tricks, especially in terms of technology. In recent years we have seen advancements such as digital design, augmented reality, drones, 3D printing and even robotics make a massive impact on efficiency, safety and other aspects of construction work.
As construction continues to adopt and implement new technology, showcasing opportunities to work with that tech can help spark an interest from young people. Generation Z are “technology natives” – they don’t know a time without the internet, smart phones and social media. They are comfortable with technology and expect it to be integrated into their career.
Construction is often considered to be more of an old-school field, so communicating that there are careers with a modern focus can make the industry more appealing.
Ramping up your recruiting can seem like a daunting task, but Build Your Future has already done a lot of the work for you!
We offer free construction recruitment and career exploration resources to help you connect with students, educators and parents and promote your industry. Check out how you can use BYF to help recruit the next generation of craft professionals.