By: Kendall Jones on February 17th, 2016

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How Construction Companies Can Beat A Growing Labor Shortage

Blog Posts | Operating Insights

Is your construction firm planning to increase headcount in 2016? That could prove to be a difficult task. According to a recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 71 percent of firms indicated they plan to increase headcount this year. Unfortunately, 70 percent of firms reported having a hard time finding qualified workers and 52 percent stated worries over worker shortages was their biggest concern for their business.

The recession led to the loss of over 2.3 million jobs in construction from January 2007 to January 2011. A little less than half of those lost jobs have been gained back. Most of the workers that were let go during the recession either aged out of the workforce and retired or moved on to greener pastures in other industries. The median age of people working in construction is 42.7, while the average age in 1985 was 36. About 44 percent of all people employed in construction is age 45 or older. Compare that to the less than 9 percent that are 24 or younger. Individual companies and the industry as a whole needs to step up their efforts in order to attract more youth to jobs in construction.

In order to attract top talent, you have to establish your company as an employer of choice, both within your industry and your local area. Offering competitive wages and benefits like health insurance and gym membership reimbursement to your employees is just the beginning. Remember, you’re competing for employees just like you compete for work.

Set your firm above your competition by creating a strong company culture that values its employees and empowers them to have their voices heard and is backed by a strong leadership team. Engage your employees by offering opportunities that are both challenging and rewarding. Be the first place a candidate applies to when seeking a new job rather than being their last resort.

Construction firms need to increase their investment in training and development of the workforce. Make sure you are making opportunities such as training and continuing education courses available to both your new and existing employees. Offer to reimburse employees for classes once they’ve successfully completed them. Potential employees want to know that there are advancement opportunities and multiple career paths to move up within an organization.

Retaining good employees should be as important to your company as recruiting them. You want to keep the good workers once you’ve hired them. This means investing in them and their continued growth and success with your company. People want to feel like they are contributing team members as opposed to just employees who show up to do a job. Show your employees they are appreciated and valued. Keep employees motivated by recognizing and rewarding them for their hard work and dedication to your company.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.” – Richard Branson

Seldom will a job candidate walk through your door with all the prerequisite skills, education, training and work experience listed in your job posting. Remember, skills can be trained, a strong work ethic typically cannot. If you’re willing to put the extra time into training a new hire make sure they have the right attitude, integrity, are reliable and willing to put in the same amount of effort you are investing in them.

Conduct background checks, drug screenings and pre-employment assessment tests on potential new hires before you make that job offer. Make sure the candidate is a good fit for your company by asking for references. Contact them to get an idea of what kind of employee your candidate will be. One of the best questions to ask a reference is whether they would hire/rehire the candidate.

Even after you’ve done your due diligence and made a job offer, not everyone you hire will be a good fit for your firm. This will be evident after the first couple of months they are on the job. Sometimes businesses are hesitant to let someone go considering the time and money that went into recruiting and training an employee. Don’t continue to spend your time and money on an employee who isn’t working out.

Construction firms need to look to the future by offering internships and co-ops to local high school, trade school and college students. Reach out to your local universities and community colleges that offer courses of study in the construction industry. More and more companies are setting up training programs with community colleges and vocational schools to offer training programs to meet their needs.

Consider getting involved in youth programs aimed at getting kids interested in construction careers. The ACE Mentor Program and MAGIC Camps, which stands for Mentoring a Girl in Construction, are both great programs to get involved with. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Education Foundation (NEF) offers a number of education programs for both adults and young people. Their Block Kids program introduces grade school children to careers in construction. They also have a CAD/Design/Drafting Competition and an Accessory Structure Project competition for the high school level. You can learn more about the NEF programs here.

Find local apprenticeship programs, or consider starting your own registered apprenticeship program so you can offer industry-specific training programs that that can benefit your company. This creates an additional pipeline to tap into when it comes time to hire a new employee.

Don’t forget to look to veterans and active-duty military who will soon be transitioning to civilian life and looking to start new careers. There are a number of programs like Helmets to Hardhats, Veterans2Construction and Veterans in Piping are all geared to attracting and training veterans for careers in construction.

We’re already seeing reports of construction delays due to worker shortages in states like Florida, Georgia and Texas. These issues are only going to get worse and spread to other areas of the country, especially for construction companies that aren’t being proactive and creative in their recruitment efforts. The December 2015 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had the seasonally adjusted rate of job openings in construction at 207,000. That’s the highest level since February 2007. The entire construction industry needs to pull together to develop a fundamental change in its approach to attracting more people to careers in construction.