Addressing the Construction Worker Shortage Across the U.S.

According to a recent survey which questioned 1,000 firms nationwide, the construction industry is decidedly on an upswing. Firms appear to be optimistic and the demand for all types of construction services continues to increase.

This overall optimism is seen in both public and private sectors which may be due to a combination of a business-friendly regulatory environment, current economic conditions, and the anticipation of infrastructure investments.

But things aren’t all positive on the horizon. Because of the rapid growth the U.S. is experiencing, a large majority of firms are having a serious struggle to obtain qualified construction workers. In fact, 82% of the firms questioned stated that they expect to face difficulties in hiring and recruiting qualified workers in the coming year. That is a whopping 76% increase from last year. This is creating fierce competition between companies and poses a very real challenge for companies and their bottom line.

Addressing the Shortage

Because of this growing need, companies are getting creative to find ways to draw more workers into the industry. Construction industry leaders are looking for ways to change the general perceptions of the construction industry. Frankly, the industry has not been notoriously popular with young people who are entering the workforce. What many don’t realize is that over time many workers can earn a six-figure income.

This quandary was recently addressed the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). The group met in Chicago to brainstorm and find solutions to the worker shortage.

While much was covered, several action items were identified. One way to reduce the shortage to is to create an incentive for young people to consider entering a trade school, as opposed to a traditional college. Historically, there was a belief that if you want to be successful, you need to go to college. Trade schools were often thought of as a fallback position rather than a goal. This perception needs to be changed.

Women are notoriously in the lowest demographic for the construction industry and are truly an untapped resource. More effort needs to be made to utilize women for the contributions they can make in the industry.

Any concerted effort to change the industry needs the support of Washington, D.C. to gain regulatory and legislative leverage. This means doing what needs to be done to increase awareness and presence in Washington and educate the powers that be about the dire need for their support.

What Can be Done Locally?

There are things we all can do to help the shortage and further boost the upswing and growth that is expected for the coming year. Here are few suggestions:

Create a Company Culture of “Safety First”: Putting the safety and well-being of your workers at the forefront not only helps morale, but it also minimizes your risk of losing workers to injuries and accidents.

Carefully Screen Future Employees: Make sure that new employees embrace your beliefs regarding safety and promote it.

Encourage the Sharing of Information: Your veteran employees are a valuable resource. Encourage them to share information with the more inexperienced employees. Both groups can learn from each other.

Support Your Veteran Employees: Your older employees are valuable. Make sure you are providing them opportunities to grow and provide ongoing training for new skills or to refine old ones.

Support Efforts in Your Area to Promote Career Education: This can be accomplished through partnering with a national organization or perhaps directly with a local school. This can help draw younger people that are looking for a career and may not have otherwise considered the construction industry.