Call it a misalignment, a critical shortage, or even a perfect storm. Yes, the construction industry is facing a shortage of skilled construction workers with unfilled construction jobs becoming the norm. Not to mention, 40% of the construction workforce are baby boomers edging closer and closer to retirement.
Maybe call it a good-news, bad-news scenario. But it looks like more of the same for 2018 with a potential $1.5 trillion in government spending for road and bridge infrastructure projects in the pipeline. It could be time to stop hand-wringing, though, and hone in on solutions, like increased pay and benefits, and stepped up investment in training.
How Did We Get Here?
First, let’s take a quick look at the roots of this critical skilled labor shortage. The industry lost roughly 900,000 skilled workers or 22% of the workforce when the bubble burst a decade ago. Even in rosier economic times, it hasn’t been easy to recoup these losses and attract new workers—especially younger ones.
How bad is it? More than 70% of firms are struggling to find qualified workers with contractors reporting shortages of electricians, carpenters, and most positions. Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nearly 150,000 unfilled construction jobs across the country. This is nearly double the number five years ago.
Getting Creative to Attract Workers
You already know the competition is fierce when it comes to hiring and retaining skilled workers. The solution? Start thinking outside-the-box. Some contractors have added staff specifically tasked with searching for workers at high schools, trade schools, and military bases. Other contractors are investing in technology like new software and promoting in-house training for key roles like construction estimators.
Wages are also a big part of this issue. Industrywide, skilled workers have seen their wages jump more than 16% over the past four years, more than double the industry average. It’s only going to get better for these workers with wages expected to average more than 3% growth through 2020, according to IHS Markit.
Attracting Millennials is Still Key
By 2020, millennials are expected to represent half of the global workforce – many with little to no experience or interest in the construction industry. Compounding this problem is that most high schools have dropped vocational training.
While wages, benefits, and training may solve part of the puzzle, attracting millennials is an essential strategy. By adding younger workers, contractors can make sure the older generation’s career knowledge and intellectual capital aren’t lost before they retire. Think about how you can put those tech-savvy millennials to work transitioning project data from ledgers and file cabinets into digital data.
Herein lies the beauty of having a strong millennial hiring game. Perhaps one of the best ways to attract and retain them is by providing the latest and greatest technology. These next-generation workers were practically born attached to laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Multitasking is second-nature to them, making them great hires when it comes to transitioning intellectual capital and training them on any new tool or app.
Step Up Your Hiring Game
Even with a strong economic forecast for 2018, many contractors may have a tough time keeping up with demand in a healthy construction market.
Is it time to revamp your hiring process to keep pace with this high demand? On Center Software can help. Recognizing that construction estimators have been particularly hard hit, we created a How to Hire a Great Estimator guide. Our easy-to-follow, 7-step guide provides great tips that you can apply to just about any area of the construction business. Download it now.