Contrary to what you may have heard in the media, my clients in the construction industry say business is booming!… Builders, developers and contractors are all encouraged that growth looks to continue well into 2021. However, the industry is facing a decline in the labor force despite the strength of the market. Construction, along with health care and personal care, will account for one-third of all new jobs through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But all the demand in the world won’t fix the construction industry’s labor shortages. The lack of skilled labor and a narrow talent pool have added extra hurdles of time, and overhead to already escalating project costs.
One of the main causes of this shortage is a lack of talented, young, new workers entering the industry, due to a perception of better opportunities elsewhere and the trending push for higher education. With vocational education disappearing from the conversation among students at a young age, along with the message that college is necessary for a successful career, there is a mainstream perception that is being constantly broadcast to students. Until more young students begin entering the skilled trades and the construction field, the industry will continue to suffer from a lean talent bench to draw from.
A low unemployment rate is typically positive news, but many construction builders and contractors have voiced concerns over the lack of skilled labor and young professionals with hands-on experience in the field, causing many companies to turn to recruiting and staffing firms like RETS Associates. Not being able to source top talent has a trickle-down effect, making it more difficult for construction firms to deliver projects on time and/or below budget. As a recruiter in the construction industry, I’ve watched as seasoned professionals in the industry suddenly become more and more valuable to employers due to this trend, and a lack of incoming construction professionals with trade experience. These seasoned candidates are suddenly in high demand for roles such as superintendents and project managers, since these are positions most contractors find difficult to fill in the current market.
It is my opinion that the construction industry needs to attack this issue from its core and re-engage at the school level by re-establishing and better educating students about the long-term profitability of the construction trade. There is huge value in someone who comes up as a skilled laborer, having worked in the field, and really understands the business from all functioning facets. Essentially, college might not be for everyone and that’s OK! There are many pathways to being successful in life and choosing not to attend college doesn’t mean you’re going to be failure. Especially if a student wants to explore a career path in skilled trades or construction.
Construction companies see the trade-off between potential candidates who have degrees in construction management and or business, who are comfortable with technology and the business process, but don’t have field experience. On the other hand, superintendents heavy with field, or trade experience that might be lacking in business and software skills, also bring much to the table. Essentially, both a degree and experience are of great value for young professionals in construction and attracting these candidates is a major focus for the industry.
In the meantime, the industry is under duress to fill roles quickly and keep up with changing demand and market growth. Construction is evolving and it’s a sector that will continue to grow, hopefully attracting more students to understand the tremendous need for skilled labor in the industry. Positive branding about the roles open in the industry needs to be aggressive, sexy and enticing in order to overcome the stigma of perceived lower level employment opportunities in construction.
Ultimately, as unemployment hovers at record-lows and the market continues to strengthen, construction companies are realizing that the bar has been raised from a compensation standpoint. What new recruits are looking for isn’t only focused on salary, but needs to address work/life balance, company culture, career attractiveness, with growth potential and branding in general. Marketing efforts geared towards young professionals in the market will be pivotal for the future success of the industry and can give contractors, builders, and developers the competitive edge that they’re searching for by retaining and attracting top talent.
Caroldean Ross, Director of Construction, About Caroldean