The construction industry is facing a major issue right now, and it’s not rising material costs; it’s the future.
According to this McKinsey & Company report, over 40% of the US construction labor force is expected to retire by 2031. And unfortunately, there’s not a huge population of young people ready and willing to take their place. Less and less people are choosing careers in the trades, and yet the demand for new construction is increasing exponentially.
So, how is the industry supposed to confront this situation?
You can’t build buildings without people. At least, not yet. With that in mind, the most obvious approach to confronting the labor shortage is this: Attract, train, and retain young talent.
The Three C's
Casey McEndree, Project Manager at Underground Construction, explained in this Procore article that Generation Z and Millennials value these three elements more than anything when considering their career: Culture; Compensation; and Communication or Control.
Construction companies wanting to attract and retain young talent must prioritize these three elements if they are to succeed. Easier said than done, right?
We know that contractors who sub out a lot of their work might not be able to control who is on site with their employees, and therefore won’t be able to cultivate the job site culture as carefully as they might be able to in the office. Plus there’s the weather, the tougher working conditions, and the safety risks that come along with field labor.
On the flip side, there are a lot of young people who loathe the idea of a stuffy desk job and actually want to be out in the elements, learning new skills, and seeing their work come to life right before their eyes. There is a pool of potential talent out there who would fit the bill perfectly. So why aren’t they entering the construction workforce?
the perception problem
According to this survey by the National Association of Home Builders, only 3% of young adults ages 18-25 chose construction trades as their preferred career path. As certain types of careers are continually valued over more trades-based vocations, the perception of the construction worker is taking a hit. Because of the country’s focus on four-year degrees, high schools are removing vocational arts classes, and apprenticeship programs are fewer and farther between. Which is, admittedly, discouraging. But there’s still hope! We just need to take action.
So how do you do it? How do you attract and retain dedicated young professionals with great potential? Dr. Giovanna Brasfield, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Flatiron Construction, and Dina Kimble, President & CEO at Royal Electric Company lay out these action steps:
1. Recruit people from different backgrounds. Be inclusive and open-minded in your recruiting efforts.
2. Utilize your current employees as brand ambassadors. They know your company better than anyone.
3. Understand and address that there is no one-size-fits-all career development method. Be willing to engage with each individual to help them develop professionally.
4. Build and foster relationships with your local schools and colleges to help rewrite people’s perception of construction careers. Show them how fulfilling it can be.
5. Offer internships or apprenticeship programs for hands-on learning.
There is no shortage of work in the construction industry. We all know that. So let’s be proactive and build a better, healthier, and promising future for this industry.