The construction industry is in growth mode across the globe. Construction output is projected to grow 85% by 2030, highlighting the ever-increasing opportunities for professionals in the field. At the same time, there is a lack of skilled laborers, and those same construction companies state they have a hard time filling positions.
Fortunately, there are some programs that provide a model for construction recruitment. Finding or training skilled workers sometimes requires thinking outside the box to attract new workers to a booming industry. From conducting local outreach to speaking to underrepresented groups, here are a few ideas that provide an excellent path forward.
Construction work has traditionally been a male-oriented job, but more women are moving into the industry because of the excellent pay and schedule flexibility. Women make up only 9% of the construction industry and 3% of construction laborers, so there’s a lot of room for growth in the number of female employees.
Innovative programs include Nontraditional Employment for Women, or NEW, a New York-based organization that recruits and trains local women for city construction unions. Recently, NEW was able to boast that women represent more than 6% of the region’s union construction workers.
Many women who might otherwise find success in the construction industry simply lack the exposure or support to pursue these opportunities. Programs like NEW educate recruits about potential career trajectories and prepare them to break down barriers that have traditionally barred women from the construction site.
When military veterans get out of the service, their old jobs aren’t typically waiting for them. Many may have gone into the military after high school and are looking for a new career path. Interestingly, the Department of Labor forecasts that the construction industry will need to hire 240,000 workers annually in light of current demand. A similar amount of veterans re-enters the private sector each year. How can companies take advantage of this match-up?
Higher education isn’t for everyone, so construction companies offering on-the-job training for veterans have an opportunity of attracting skilled employees with a strong work ethic. Military veterans may already have experience servicing heavy equipment as mechanics and fit well into a variety of jobs, such as operating dozers or articulated trucks.
One program aimed at translating the skills of former military personnel into the building industry is Helmets to Hardhats. This national non-profit connects veterans to federally-approved apprenticeship programs, creating specialized professionals with little to no prior construction experience. The program also works with Wounded Warriors and helps disabled vets find jobs in the construction industry.
Local Youth Outreach
Some construction trade organizations sponsor local events to get young people interested in the industry. From formal education opportunities to simple demonstrations, these aim to expose students to career possibilities they may not consider otherwise.
Recently in Duluth, Minnesota, for example, the trades association held an event called “Construct Tomorrow.” This outreach effort was set up with demonstration stations showing the type of work people in the building industry do daily. It was a hands-on experience meant to generate excitement in young people and show them another option for a career after high school, particularly in a region with a high demand for construction professionals.
Events are also used to highlight skilled trades, such as ironworking, and provide information on gaining an apprenticeship. While the worker might start out making less, after they learn the trade, they’ll make much more than an average worker.
Some companies go into local schools to talk about a specific type of work in the construction industry and explain how apprenticeship programs work. College and job fairs are another place to put information into the hands of young people or those looking for a new career.
A registered apprenticeship program gets certified through the Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship or a state agency. While developing a program requires time and resources from industry employers, it results in a steady pipeline of highly-trained workers within a company’s specific field. This level of career support and stability has undeniable appeal for students and employers alike.
Construction isn’t usually thought of as a high-tech industry, but virtual reality, Internet of Things and other groundbreaking technologies are making their way onto building sites. Companies and programs who are on top of these changes can generate unique opportunities to recruit younger workers into the field.
Across industries, the use of technology is one of the top things attracting younger workers. Generation Z, people born in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, are the first generation never to know a world without the internet and cellphones. This is a tech-savvy generation, and they rely on the use of devices for daily tasks.
Many firms are embracing this characteristic by creating mentorship opportunities for tech-oriented students. For example, the ACE Mentor Program connects students with industry professionals who can better demonstrate technological opportunities in the field. Then, once young workers have been recruited, professional development and training programs can help boost retention while advancing a firm’s ability to stay on top of technology trends.
As the industry continues to change, employers will rely on workers who are comfortable embracing technology. This creates the perfect opportunity to communicate with young recruits who may not realize how 3D modeling, virtual reality, and other exciting technical skills are transforming the traditional jobsite.
Revising Your Recruitment Strategy
If the construction industry hopes to fill the many open jobs of the future, it must think outside the box and come up with new ways of educating the public about career potential. Opening the doors to new types of workers and providing more structured learning opportunities may be the key to turning around the industry’s employment shortage.
Holly Welles is a freelance writer who covers construction and real estate innovations for publishers across the web, including NCCER and Constructible. She also runs her own residential real estate blog, The Estate Update.