The construction industry has a two-fold challenge when it comes to the workforce challenge that exists today: attracting new employees and retaining existing ones. The hurdles are mounting, but the solutions are myriad, as we move ahead into a new era of work.
The ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) suggests the construction industry will need to attract nearly 650,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring in 2022. Looking to the future, in 2023, the industry will need to bring in nearly 590,000 new workers on top of normal hiring to meet industry demand.
The challenge grows, as we recognize many industries—such as manufacturing, energy, and more—are also looking for workers, making the competition for skilled talent fierce.
In an industry such as construction, once these workers are brought into work, they will additionally need to develop a specific skillset to help build the projects of the future. This isn’t an easy feat to say the least. In fact, this challenge is downright scary. What’s an industry to do? That’s the challenge for the next decade for sure.
Perhaps this is the reason why a recent DEWALT survey suggests 55% of U.S. contractors believe a lack of skilled workers is a barrier to growing their current business—and that number rises to 69% among businesses with $10 million plus annual revenue and to 64% among those with 20 years or more of experience.
Add to this that since the pandemic, in the construction industry, business has increased, but at the same time we are seeing rising inflation costs, long work hours, and lack of workers, which has made it even harder for businesses to keep up with the demand.
Looking to the future, nearly half of the U.S. contractors believe training the next generation of workers is the industry’s most critical need. But the bigger challenge is that the next generation of workers—at least at this moment in time—is not showing an interest in this profession.
As I mentioned, the solutions are myriad, and while there are too many to mention, let’s walk through three right now.
Mentorship. If you have been following here or listening to me on The Peggy Smedley Show for any length of time, then you know mentorship is a top priority for me—and it seems the DEWALT survey suggests it is also a priority for construction companies. Some organizations are better than others and according to the numbers, roughly 67% of all contractors label these programs as extremely important, with an additional 24% identifying these programs as moderately important. This indicates there is much work to be done here to help mentors play a critical role in how they can inspire and lead for trades.
Health and wellbeing. We need to address this challenge in all industries—but especially in construction. It is a double-edged sword. We need more workers to reduce the number of hours everyone has to work, but those workers aren’t going to come and stay if they have to work more hours which leads to more illness and more injury. The only way we are going to address this is by focusing on the health and wellbeing of employees.
Entice workers—both existing and new. This can be done through scholarship or apprenticeship programs and other bonus incentives. Consider asking your current workers what it is they want out of their career—because it is going to differ drastically from person to person. Some may want more money, while others may want opportunities for advancement.
We need to come together to solve the worker shortage and I believe this is going to require a bigger movement to make this happen. We need all workers to become excited about working again. And we need workers to understand that construction is an exciting job that builds the cities of tomorrow and keeps our towns humming. Let’s put our mentorship skills to the test here. We need to inspire and lead. But we need to first engage to make it all happen.
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