Addressing the labor shortage in the construction industry through improved and more inclusive recruiting communications, interviewing and hiring techniques, and onboarding processes

As the prices of materials, equipment, labor and shipping continue to rise due to unprecedented inflation in the United States as well as various supply chain crises supply, non-residential and residential construction lead times continue to lengthen. In general, a universal truth when analyzing a labor shortage: productivity decreases when the supply of labor is tight. In short, projects are more expensive and take much longer than they should.

“Construction employment has stalled in many states, even though contractors have many projects that need more employees, due to a shortage of skilled workers,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), regarding an analysis of federal employment data that the AGC released in late July 2022. “Only half of the states saw an increase in construction employment in the month last.”

In this recurring series Bridging the Gap, experts covered simulators to help new employees learn about their future jobs, the concept of investing in training new and current employees, and the idea of ​​making construction work. technology for Gen Z workers. This column discussed automating contractor roles, such as scheduling, payments, and documentation. He touted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) as a great opportunity for job creation in the United States. It also contains practical tips for raising awareness among potential employees, from offering part-time jobs to retirees to old-fashioned paper job postings at local haunts.

What he didn’t touch so much was revolutionizing a culture of work by de-stigmatizing the preconceived notion of construction as dirty, unwanted, or dead-end work. This month, here are some back-to-basics tips for turning the often negative conversation around building as a career into a positive one:

Say it: “It’s active and rewarding work. You can be outside and working while being physically active, while benefiting from the intellectual stimulation of job site analysis, on-the-fly problem solving and attention to detail.

Not: “It’s hard work, and you’ll need to be comfortable with grime, dirt and possible injuries.”

The world needs buildings and roads for infrastructure, and multi-family residential buildings to solve a national housing crisis and affordability problem. Construction workers are essential to this progress. Moreover, many people in the American workforce aren’t expected to sit at a computer, typing thousands of chats or emails daily; their skills are better suited to hands-on and construction work, whether fine-tuning site plans or operating high-tech equipment. The physical satisfaction of these opportunities is what hiring managers in the construction industry should be touting.

Say it: “You will get to know and use incredible equipment, and increased technology has made these machines comfortable, efficient and much safer.”

Not: “Anyone can be an operator.”

While it is true that most inexperienced new hires can be trained to be excellent operators, emphasis should be placed on the career opportunity and work environment during the interview and induction process. integration. New employees will be paid between 3.4 and 4.17% more than employees hired before 2022, according to the latest Contractor Compensation Quarterly (CCQ) published by PAS, Inc., as reported by more than 340 companies in the 40th edition of the Construction/Construction Management Personnel Salary Survey. According to a March 2022 McKinsey report, “Bridging the Labor Mismatch in US Construction,” these higher-paid employees yearn for increased autonomy, work-life balance, and a safe, comfortable, and positive work environment. The implication that they are expendable or disposable as employees will not work in favor of hiring managers. A hiring manager should aim to find employees who fit well into the workplace culture, rather than just a warm body to run the equipment.

Say it: “Training for a career in construction can be a great alternative to a traditional four-year college or university education. And it can look like technical work on some job sites, due to high-level machine automation.

Not: “If you don’t have a degree, you might as well get a construction job and earn some money.”

Earning a living wage is important, but upward mobility and feeling valued in a company are important to most people. Rather than phrasing a recruiting ad in a “well” tone that indicates HR thinks construction is a dead-end job, focus on the benefits, both intellectual and monetary. The absence of student loan debt alone can put young construction workers far ahead of their Gen Z peers financially. Moreover, these higher-paying jobs, with higher disposable income without student loan debt, are also more secure and engaging than in the past. Increased automation and control of high-tech equipment, from 3D guidance and automated bulldozers to Cold Frame Steel (CFS) automations and pre-engineered options, allows new employees to learn both technology and the craft, which ultimately results in a more robust, educated workforce.

Say it: “If you like statistics, estimating is a great way to break into the construction industry.”

Not: “There are no opportunities in construction for people who don’t want to work on construction sites.”

There are also many opportunities for those interested in administrative, accounting and other construction office tasks.

Say it: “The U.S. government is actively working with construction associations and companies to open pathways into the construction industry for women, people of color, and immigrants.”

Not: “You might feel left out in this industry.”

Currently, 88% of the construction industry workforce is white and 89% is male, according to the March 2022 McKinsey report, “Bridging the labor mismatch in US construction.” Attracting more diverse talent as quickly as possible is imperative, according to McKinsey, and employers should consider working with non-traditional sources of talent, such as veteran bridging programs, formerly incarcerated people and immigrants.

AGC officials recently called on the U.S. government to allow employers to sponsor more foreign-born workers and support increased vocational and technical training to expand options for workers to upgrade their construction skills. . Likewise, the federal government’s IIJA is expected to boost training partnerships under the recently announced Talent Pipeline Challenge, which the White House aims to use to open pathways to quality jobs for women, people of color and underserved workers, including those from rural and tribal communities and individuals. who live in constant poverty. Christopher Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, told the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee during its July 13 hearing that the talent pool of the construction industry needed to expand to include more women and immigrants. In 2021, about 25% of all U.S.-based construction workers were immigrants, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. Immigration reform, Herbert said, would be a way to increase the supply of workers available for builders to hire and speed up the currently very lagging construction times in the United States.

Opportunities for non-traditional employees are growing at an exponential rate, creating the potential for a much more diverse construction industry workforce than ever before. Recruiters and employers now need to ensure that their recruiting communications, interview and hiring techniques, and onboarding processes are fully articulated and as inclusive as possible because they make these new hires indispensable.

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