There is no sugarcoating the skills shortage in the construction industry. From electricians to carpenters to welders, the lack of skilled labor is a real and pressing concern for business owners across the country. But why is there a skills shortage in construction? And what can be done to mitigate its effects? So let’s take a look.
Reasons for Skills Shortage
Baby Boomers Retiring
The generation of Americans born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers, make up a large portion of the construction workforce. This generation is considered the most skilled and experienced in the industry. However, they are also aging out of the workforce. As more and more Boomers retire, there are not enough people to take their place.
The Baby Boomer retirement wave is in full effect. In 2020, about 28 million Baby Boomers retired, many of them from the industry. That’s a lot of experience and knowledge leaving the industry, and not enough young people are entering the field to replace them.
The Great Recession led to a sharp decrease in construction projects (and, subsequently, jobs). As a result, many skilled laborers left the industry altogether to find work in other sectors. Now that the economy has picked up and there is an increase in demand for construction services, those workers are not returning.
The current pandemic also caused another decrease in construction projects (and jobs). The pandemic’s ripple effect on the industry is still being felt today.
The trades have historically been viewed as “blue collar” jobs and, therefore, less desirable than jobs in other industries. This perception has led to a decline in interest in careers in construction, further exacerbating the skills shortage. There are various reasons why this perception exists, but one is the pay. Trades jobs tend to pay less than jobs in other industries, especially when you compare them to jobs requiring a similar skill level.
This perception also exists because of the working conditions. Construction sites can be dirty, dangerous, and uncomfortable. These working conditions are not for everyone, discouraging people from pursuing careers in the trades.
The lack of desirability is compounded by the fact that construction jobs are often seen as “temp” jobs. They are not considered long-term career options. This is another reason there is a decline in interest in the industry.
Not Enough Instructors
There are not enough trained instructors to teach the next generation of construction workers. With so many baby boomers retiring, there is an increasing need for qualified trade instructors—but there is a lack of people with the experience and training necessary to fill those roles.
The Lack of Women
Lastly, there are not enough women entering into careers in construction. Women make up just 9% of the construction workforce nationwide—a number that has remained relatively static over the past few decades.
What You Can Do About It
This might include offering incentives for employees who stay with your company for a certain number of years or providing additional training opportunities to keep employees’ skills sharp.
It’s time to amp up your recruitment efforts—specifically when recruiting women and essential careers such as engineering in construction. This means hiring third-party recruiters to help you out.
Engineers are some of the essential workers in construction. However, their lack of numbers means you need connections to hire them. Thankfully, there are engineering recruitment firms you can hire. These firms often have a network of engineers they can connect you with, making it easier to find the right talent for your construction project.
You can do the same tactic when hiring women. There are women-owned businesses that provide services such as recruiting and staffing. These businesses can help you connect with qualified women interested in working in construction.
Apprenticeship in Construction
The apprenticeship model is a great way to attract and retain young talent. It’s also an excellent way to provide on-the-job training so employees can learn the skills they need to be successful in their roles.
Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular in the construction industry to combat the skilled labor shortage. As a result, the number of apprentices in the United States has grown by more than 20% in the past five years.
There are a few reasons for this increase. First, apprenticeships provide employees with on-the-job training to learn the skills they need to succeed in their roles. Second, apprenticeships are a great way to attract and retain young talent. An apprenticeship program is an excellent option if you’re looking to staff your construction company with the next generation of skilled workers.
There are various initiatives you can support in construction. Here are some of them.
- The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) runs the construction apprenticeship scheme in England. The scheme is designed to help employers train new or existing employees in the skills needed for their business.
- The MAC Foundation is a charity that provides financial assistance to families of deceased or injured construction industry members. The charity also offers support to construction workers who are facing hardship.
- The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) is the national body for the construction industry in Ireland. The CIF represents the interests of construction firms and provides a range of services to its members.
The skills shortage is a real and pressing concern for business owners across the country. However, by taking proactive steps, you can help mitigate its effects. It can also help you hire more people in your firm.