By: Kendall Jones on May 13th, 2022
How to Recruit and Retain the Next Generation of Construction Workers
Labor shortages are one of the major issues the construction industry is struggling to overcome. For many construction firms, keeping their workforce fully staffed is their biggest challenge. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in March 2022, there were 396,000 job openings in the construction industry, up from 383,000 in January and February.
A recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of America shows that construction companies are struggling to fill both craft worker and salaried positions within their firms. While 74% of firms surveyed expect to add headcount over the next 12 months, a large majority are finding it difficult to fill open positions. Nearly 90% of firms looking to hire craft workers are really struggling to fill those positions. Pipelayers and bricklayers topped the list of being the most difficult positions to fill.
The biggest issue firms are having is finding qualified workers. There's just not enough skilled workers to fill all of the open positions. ANd since skilled workers aren't going to just start falling from the sky, construction firms are going to have to change their approach to attract and train the next generation of workers.
The labor shortage needs to be addressed head-on, it’s not something that will self-correct itself over time. If anything, the situation will only get worse as more workers age out and retire with fewer younger workers coming in to take their place. For construction companies to recruit and retain workers, they may need to alter their methods in order to competitively attract the next generation of construction workers.
Reach Out Locally
People entering the workforce these days aren’t exactly flocking to the construction industry. If you want to generate interest, you need to start reaching out to kids at the junior high and high school levels to introduce them to the construction industry. Offering summer jobs or internships to high school students can spark an early interest in a career in construction.
National programs like ACE Mentor Programs of America and YouthBuild USA are great ways to get your company involved and introduce young kids to construction. If there isn’t a local program in your area, consider starting one or sponsoring some other sort of program that promotes careers in construction.
Don’t forget your local community colleges and universities. Be sure to attend career days or job fairs in order to recruit local talent. Offering internships and co-ops are good ways to promote your company and find future workers. You can even work with your local community colleges to create apprenticeship programs.
Competitive Pay & Benefits
Are you offering competitive pay and benefits to potential new employees? What kind of benefits are you offering your workers? Do you have a company culture that is inviting and nurturing to the diverse backgrounds of the people you are recruiting?
Family leave, paid vacation, health and wellness programs, 401K benefits, medical insurance, and flexible schedules are all becoming standard benefits offered by most companies these days. Competition for workers is stiff, so you need to make sure that you are offering more than just a paycheck to your employees if want them to stick around and build a career with your company.
Tout Your Safety Culture
Safety should already be your construction company’s top priority. If your company has a strong safety culture or a rock-solid safety record, you can use that to recruit workers. By adopting a strong safety culture, it allows you to promote your commitment to protecting workers when recruiting new employees. It also shows you value and care about your employees’ well-being and will help you retain workers.
Offer Career Paths
Does your company offer career paths and advancement opportunities to all employees? Workers want to know that they can move up the ladder as they gain more experience and seniority. Work with employees to determine what their career goals are and how you can help achieve them.
Help identify any additional education, training, or experience they may need and outline a timeline and milestones to hit in order to achieve their career goals. As you map out a career path with each employee, determine what resources your company can contribute to their success. This could cover providing internal training or mentoring programs to tuition reimbursement for employees that may need further education.
Offering career pathing is a great way to retain workers and ensure they will stay with your company, but it can also be a strong recruitment tool that shows your commitment to your workers by promoting from within.
Providing ongoing training is a benefit that can be reaped by both employees and the company. Offering training opportunities to your employees shows you have a vested interest in their professional growth. Retain workers by providing ongoing training that helps them achieve their career goals.
Continuous learning will help you keep your workers engaged and interested. Cross-training is a great way to teach employees different aspects of the business and it also ensures that you have workers trained to handle multiple tasks when labor is short.
Differentiate Yourself & Never Stop Recruiting
What sets your construction company apart from your competitors? If your company uses a lot of technology like drones, BIM and mobile apps, you can use that a tool to recruit tech-savvy workers. Great pay and benefits, career advancement opportunities and safety are all assets you can use to set yourself above the competition to recruit and retain workers.
If labor shortages is a challenge your business is facing, you need to spend more time and resources in your recruitment efforts. Consider getting outside help from a recruitment agency that specializes in the construction industry. Always be on the lookout for ways to diversify and bring in new workers to your business.
Don’t just focus on your needs for your next project or the next few months. Determine what your labor needs might be for the next 5, 10, or 20 years to ensure you are laying the groundwork now to create a strong network and pipeline of workers to carry your business into the future.
About Kendall Jones
Kendall Jones is the Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect. He has been writing about the construction industry for years, covering a wide range of topics from safety and technology to industry news and operating insights.