The construction industry is booming with business, making it one of the busiest today. Construction projects of all sorts are always popping up, whether residential or commercial, renovating or building from the ground up. Be that as it may, business owners in the trades, like concrete contractors and electrical contractors, see a significant decrease in the number of skilled people working on these projects. The industry is experiencing a devastating problem: labor shortage.
With the advancement of technology, many companies and their project management rely heavily on machines to replace human labor. While they do alleviate the problem to an extent, humans are still essential to the industry. Those managing construction projects create construction schedules to maximize the people they presently have employed. But the truth is that they need more.
The key is in the youth. They are to replace the older generation who are at the age of retirement. The problem is that the younger generation is not showing an interest in making a career in construction.
Labor shortage is a big problem in the industry.
Despite the industry steadily growing, many construction companies are struggling to fill essential jobsite roles. In 2019, The Associated General Contractors of America released a survey and found that around 80% of companies have trouble finding the workers they need.
In addition, a 2018 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics deduced that the construction industry holds the largest ration in vacancy and unemployment. The following year, data from JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) verified that the US’s construction labor shortage is short of about 350,000 workers.
Challenges labor shortage pose to the industry
Delays and cancelations are two of the main problems construction projects go through due to labor shortage. With the lack of laborers onsite, delays are bound to happen– the project overall might even be canceled.
To make up for the low number of workers, management optimizes construction schedules by offering overtime hours, which brings out another problem. Although employees will financially benefit from this, overworking will take a toll on them physically. Plus, there is a threat to the project budget. The company might not be able to pay for overtime salaries regularly. Some companies might take a different route and hire lesser-skilled workers instead of overworking existing ones.
Whichever way they go is risky because the workers’ safety and the quality of the structure are on the line. Construction is already a dangerous field to work in, but going into it untrained puts the worker’s life in danger. Also, an unskilled and overworked crew can jeopardize the project’s quality. Add to that the inevitable delays and possibility for cancellation, contractors will be dealing with disappointed clients and a possible bad reputation.
The Role Of Youth and Why They Don’t Want To Enter Construction
Many believe that youth is the answer to the labor shortage. Because older workers are at or nearing retirement, it’s only natural that younger people replace them in their positions.
The unfortunate thing is that a very low number represents them in the field. Since the housing boom in 2005, the number of workers under 25 has dropped by about 30% from 2005 to 2006 in 48 states. According to an analysis of US Census data by chief economist Issi Romem from BuildZoom, a construction data firm.
Even with the plethora of benefits– on-the-job training, minimal to no student loans, plenty of work, and reasonably good salaries, young people are still not keen on joining the industry.
One factor to consider is over-glorifying white-collar jobs. Many high schools and colleges around the country have taken down certain vocational programs because they emphasize four-year course and while-collar jobs over skilled trades. This notion has only been reinforced by parents, thinking that not going to college means failure.
Another reason as to why the industry is not seeing an increase in the number of young workers is the rising costs of construction companies, bringing in slim profit margins. Because of this, companies lack the means to train recruits and don’t want to risk mistakes happening. This lead to some retracting offers of on-the-job training.
How To Attract Youth To Your Construction Company
Due to the youth’s lack of interest in the industry, construction companies struggle to find employees and fill teams.
To address the issue at hand, making construction appealing to the youth, your company has to go through some changes. Getting them interested takes more than talking about a few points and promising comfortable living. To urge them to enter the field, leaders, managers, and others in position have to make an effort to change their perceptions. To encourage the youth, they need to see action.
1. Eliminate the idea that construction is “boring”
A lot of young people today view a career in construction is boring and monotonous. Because all they see a construction worker does is physically demanding, applying for a job here would never cross their minds.
But the truth is there is an abundance of variety in construction. There is a wide range of roles they can choose from, such as engineering, architecture, design, and surveying. There is even more variety in trades, including plumbing, electrical, painting, roofing, HVAC, and concrete.
2. Present it as an alternative to college
We know that the common notion is that not going to college means you are a failure. That’s why portraying a career in construction as a viable alternative to college is a must. While there is truth to the belief that little to no formal education is not necessary for entering the field, plenty of skill and knowledge is required to succeed and make a career in it. That’s why there has been a long tradition of internships, apprenticeships, mentorships, and traineeships in construction.
Unfortunately, these have considerably rolled back and become unpopular due to the recession. But it’s imperative to bring them back as they are crucial to the industry’s health and growth.
This is where marketing comes in. When young people see an abundance of programs that will help and train them for the trade, they will get encouraged to enter. One marketing method is getting programs out there through job fairs, seminars, or affiliates in schools.
3. Show opportunities for growth
Professional goals and career aspirations vary from generation to generation. Today’s youth want something big for their future, either set up their own business or climb up the company ladder. Unfortunately, many see a career in construction as stagnant, monotonous, and practically a life sentence.
Erase this idea from their minds and show them that this industry is filled with fulfilling growth opportunities. Show them that it is a field where they can gain immense knowledge and diverse skills to branch out to other endeavors. If their goal is to start their own construction company, they can get connections and contacts.
4. Build a supportive and healthy workplace
Getting them interested is one thing, but getting them to stay is a whole other feat. People today are more socially and self-aware. That’s why it’s vital to create a healthy and supportive company culture.
In the past, construction was an industry filled with division. Traditionally, there was a clear line separating men and women, and old superiors and younger employees. But because people are more socially sensitive, they will not stand for toxicity in the workplace. They demand respect, dignity, and equality.
To retain a high staff rate, present your company as one that prioritizes its people over the business. Treat your employees with decency and the appropriate amount of respect. You can achieve this through proper communication. And this does only involve succinctly delivering your message but also actively listening to your young subordinates. Be open to their thoughts, suggestions, ideas, and opinions. You will find that they will be essential in furthering your company in success.
More than that, create a work environment where they can feel safe, especially in a field like construction. Provide them with health benefits, first aid kits, safety training, and follow all OSHA safety protocols.
5. Take advantage of modern technology.
The construction industry has long been under-digitalized, making it seem out of date for today’s youth. With gadgets, devices, and the Internet, they will expect technology to inherently be part of their job.
Although not completely caught up with the digital age, the industry has been hit with a sudden increase in construction-related techs, such as construction crew scheduling software, wearables, self-driving vehicles, and drones.
One flaw construction management has it often thinks about short-term goals only. They need to work on looking at the future to entice the younger generation to enter construction. And this can be done through technology.
Since the recession, construction companies have been struggling to fill up their employee roster, especially with an increase in retiring employees and a decrease in new ones entering. Even though the labor shortage is a massive problem the industry is facing right now, companies have the power to shift gears. Even though the youth currently shows a lack of interest, construction companies have the ability to entice them– they have to make modifications to their system.