According to the Q1 2019 Commercial Construction Index, 70% of contractors are struggling to meet project deadlines thanks to a shortage of skilled workers. The report notes that there is a widely-held perception that construction industry is filled with ‘dirty’ jobs rather than careers that require training. As residential and commercial construction continues to grapple with labor shortages, this disjointed perception of what it’s like to work in construction appears to be exacerbating the problem.
The report noted that contractors felt higher pay, a clear path for advancement and good benefits would attract the right workers. But nearly one-third of contractors also recognize that the ability to work with advanced technology is a lure for younger generations of professionals. And company culture is a significant factor in the construction industry, especially for the younger generations.
The construction industry, even before advances in cloud computing, mobile devices, artificial intelligence, drones and more has long fought a perception issue as a sort of “dinosaur” industry where career advancement is “limited.” Though that narrative is changing, much more needs to be done to show younger generations that construction, technology, and company culture go hand-in-hand.
More contractors need to adopt new technologies to enhance their company culture and modernize the software programs used to run their organizations. Do so and skilled workers won’t see inefficiencies and headaches, they’ll see opportunities and reasons to get into the business and grow with the industry.
Shortages = Opportunities
For the past several years, “skilled trades” have ranked number one on ManpowerGroup’s list of hardest-to-fill positions for employers. McGraw-Hill Construction states the top five trade areas with the greatest feared skilled labor shortage are carpentry/millwork, electrical, HVAC/boilermaker, concrete finisher/cement mason, and ironwork. One of the many reasons our industry is facing a trade shortage is that the average age of a tradesperson is 56. The Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, reports there are currently 600,000 skilled jobs, such as electricians, carpenters, and masons, going unfilled. By 2020, the Institute projects there will be a need for 10 million new skilled workers.
Another reason for the shortage, according to Tradesmen International, is that when the recession hit, many skilled workers who were unable to find jobs dropped out of the industry and never returned. To make matters worse, Tradesmen International says, a whole generation of younger workers are no longer even considering construction as a viable career option. Many high schools have phased out shop classes and parents and counselors have increasingly steered graduates to four-year colleges and white-collar careers.
What I want everyone to know, is that the skilled trades CAN afford young people, veterans, and even those who are looking for a career change, an opportunity to develop a skill and earn good wages.
Not everyone can, or wants to, go to college. The building industry is a great place to get started in the working world with a good-paying job in an honorable profession that has a path to further advancement.
Construction employers must invest their own resources in workforce development, including hiring and job fairs, workforce development events and meet ups. They also need to take a chance and hire trainees with little to no experience, providing employees with specialized training.
Other ways to alleviate the issue include:
- Companies should work with local high schools, technical schools, and community organizations to develop training programs to fill their needs
- Firms need to develop and enhance young people’s trades skills with the use of both old and new technology
- Parents and educators need to embrace vocational training and apprenticeships as viable, realistic alternatives to colleges and universities
- Owners of family construction businesses must talk more with their children about the values of the family business and encourage them to consider following in their footsteps
- We all need to harness the power of each other and work together to build value back into the trades by getting out there and speaking at local middle schools, local high schools, trade and technical schools, community colleges and universities alike
- We must all work together in support of Trusting the Process, Construction and the Trades, a True Path to Success
The bottom line is the skilled trades can afford young people an opportunity to gain an education, develop a skill, and earn good wages without accumulating any student loan debt. But to make this happen, the construction trades must do a better job telling our story and describing what makes our trades so appealing and fulfilling. I encourage you to work locally with your peers in the construction industry to develop programs aimed at workforce development.
Want to learn more? Reach out to the Vinyl Siding Institute directly or stay connected to our social pages to find out about events and educational opportunities to help you combat the labor crisis.