Hiring a New Generation of Workers to Address the Construction Labor Shortfall

Tips for putting your best foot forward to attract the cream of the crop.
By James Barlow
December 6, 2022

The construction industry is coming to grips with a massive problem: finding, hiring and training the next generation of construction workers in the United States. Between the fallout from job loss due to the pandemic, the “Great Resignation” (where people increasingly and voluntarily quit their jobs) and an aging Baby Boomer workforce retiring in droves, the construction industry must immediately prioritize attracting a new workforce.

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), construction faces a workforce shortage of over 650,000 workers in 2022 alone. They noted that since the end of the Great Recession, workers aged 25-54 had dropped 8%, while workers 55 and over have risen by 20%. With the average retirement age at 61 years old, a fifth of the industry could resign within the next six years.

Other factors contribute to the lack of attraction for skilled construction labor. Continuing supply chain issues due to the pandemic and rising inflation are making the overall price to construct in America much more expensive than in years past. That rising cost can affect the ability to recruit, train and retain top talent and pay competitive wages. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction has the third highest death rate for jobs in the United States, making it less attractive than other careers.

So, how do we solve the shortfall? First, embracing new technologies that are making the construction industry more efficient is critical. According to McKinsey, technology adoption in construction is lower than in nearly every other industry. In addition, a study by BKnowledge noted that 60% of construction firms do not have a dedicated research and development budget, with 38% adding that they do not have the proper staff to support and adopt new technologies.

Despite some lack of current support, an evolution is coming. In the same McKinsey study, 60% of construction executives believe significant technological shifts will occur within the construction industry in the next five years. By investing in promising technologies and hiring the right team to manage these advances, construction labor jobs will become attractive to younger generations that are already technologically savvy, thus helping propel those companies forward.

Most importantly, the construction industry must make safety the No. 1 priority for every project. Unfortunately, there is a false notion of sacrificing safety for efficiency. Again, according to McKinsey, 98% of megaprojects face cost overruns by 80% and delays up to 20 months. These financial uncertainties and delays force construction companies to rush through projects to compensate for lost time and losses due to cost, schedule and technical problems.

Contractors should establish a safety training center that regularly engages team members in quality management, safety and leadership training programs. One company that has a safety training center, BZI, has made sure that safety is at the core of its business, which attracts workers.

Finally, the pandemic greatly emphasized the need for work-life balance. To recruit and retain talent, construction companies need to ensure their company culture is strong and rewards successes shared across organizations to learn, grow and celebrate one another. Regardless of market conditions, compensation should be at or above industry standard.

A constant truth in construction: there will always be a need for qualified labor workers. It’s up to us to embrace the future and build our businesses around technologies that benefit our companies, our clients and our workers.

by James Barlow

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