For most people, the turn of the calendar means new goals, commitments, and dreams. A fresh start. But some things just don’t change with the new year.
The construction industry has been reeling from a demand for skilled labor for over a decade, and COVID-19 has only worsened the problem. According to the Home Builder Institute, the construction industry needs over 2 million more workers over the next three years, and that is only to keep up with the booming demand in residential construction.
Of course, the skilled labor shortage is not isolated to construction, as one survey shows that nearly 47 percent of businesses reported a shortage of skilled labor in the 2021 third quarter.
As we move into the new year and beyond, will the labor shortage leave the construction industry like many new years goals - thrown aside in apathy and defeat? Or can contractors and their partners find creative ways to respond to the need and keep up with the demand? Here are some ways to ensure it’s the latter.
Diversify the Workforce
According to the Department of Labor, nearly 90 percent of the 10.8 million people employed in the construction industry are white. Only 11 percent are women. Of that 11 percent, only three percent fill “hands-on tools” jobs (as opposed to administration and management).
In recent decades, the industry has made concerted efforts to close the gap and create inclusivity. It must continue developing and utilizing existing programs that help address the labor shortage by hiring underrepresented groups.
AGC and Procore have partnered to launch a new scholarship program to assist African American and disadvantaged minority students studying construction fields at historically black colleges and universities.
Project Jumpstart, one such program in Baltimore, is an 87-hour pre-apprenticeship training program that provides intensive classroom and hands-on training. Their mission is to train low-income city residents to enter the building trades on a construction career track that will help them advance beyond the entry level.
Another initiative, Power UP, seeks to encourage, educate, and place women in construction trades. They created their signature program to empower young women and their mothers to become engaged and educated and explore career opportunities in the construction industry. They use one-on-one dialogue with women already in the industry and explore the construction landscape with hands-on activities that reflect real-world situations.
Programs like these are just what we need to bring people in that the industry has largely ignored and help address the labor shortage.
Appeal to Younger Generations
According to NAHB analysis of the most recent American Community Survey, the average age construction workers is 41. The map below displays both the average age range for construction workers and how that average age compares to the average age of the entire workforce in each state.
As the demand for labor increases across the country, it is critical that the construction industry tap in to younger generations. There are a several ways to accomplish this, centered around presenting construction as a valuable career as well as better marketing to younger people.
A career in construction trades is a clear alternative to a standard four-year degree, and results in little to no debt. When a trade requires education, it is typically via a much cheaper trade school or even a paid apprenticeship program. The construction industry needs to connect with young people, through career days or similar events, and drive home the reality that a construction career is a viable, even lucrative, option compared to the usual school and career paths.
Construction internships are another great way for construction companies to bring in younger workers. One construction company in Kentucky even created a program for high schoolers to get hands-on experiences of a job they may have otherwise never considered.
Interactive websites, hands-on camps, and even video games are further ways for the construction industry to appeal to younger generations and change the perception of a career in construction.
Diversifying the workforce and appealing to younger generations are crucial methods of addressing labor shortages. Creatively finding more workers will always be a component of combatting a sky-high need for manpower.
However, a third option for addressing labor demand is less about hiring more people and more about changing the way we build: using modular construction processes.
Modular construction has been around a long time and is currently a 72.1 billion dollar global industry.
The Modular Building Institute provides good insight on how modular construction can serve the overall construction industry well:
In the U.S., we currently have:
The modular industry can offer more predictable work locations and hours, less labor-intensive work, a higher degree of technology integration in the work place, and much safer working conditions.
We can serve as a catalyst for the major rebirth of the US manufacturing base, creating thousands of new jobs while addressing our own massive infrastructure needs.
Addressing the Booming Demand
There is a labor shortage across our industry - this fact is undeniable. The question on the table as we forge into 2022 is will addressing the demand go the way of most new years resolutions, or will the industry make strides toward resolving the labor crisis?
Recruiting underrepresented people and the next generation of laborers and tradespeople demands a proactive approach, but the payoff is completely worthwhile. A positive message about our industry and the variety of possibilities it offers needs to reach the ears of the multitudes, making people aware of the fulfilling career possibilities. Utilizing modular construction is also a great option for addressing the crippling demand for labor. These, and more, provide practical solutions to ensure 2022 is a successful year in the construction industry!
If you are interested in learning more about CDO Group and how you may join our team, contact us today!
January 18th, 2022 |