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Predictions Galore: Preparing Workers

We all know there is a shortage of labor across many industries including construction. But what if the labor shortage isn’t the headline here? What if the real story is that there are workers, but they simply aren’t prepared for the task at hand?

This is something we have indicated to here at Constructech for years, and now there is rather significant research to back it up. The nation isn’t preparing workers for construction careers—and it hasn’t been for decades—and it is ultimately hurting the nation’s economy. Since we are in the middle of a blog series looking at statistics and predictions about what is in store for the construction industry in the months ahead, let’s explore the topic of the labor shortage in depth.

As Peggy Smedley always says, we have to look back to look forward in some cases. For years the nation has been highly encouraging students to consider the path toward college, but the reality is there are many good, high-paying careers that simply require a technical college. The challenge is we weren’t encouraging students to consider this path.

Now, research from the AGC (Associated General Contractors of America) shows 88% of construction firms are having a hard time finding workers to hire. It isn’t necessarily that the workers don’t exist, but rather that the people don’t have the basic skills needed to work in these careers.

Interestingly, roughly 68% of firms report applicants lack the skills needed to work in construction. The association indicates in virtually every community there are open construction positions that pay well and are vital to the economy, but too few schools offer classes in construction or even expose students to the opportunities that exist in the field. Ken Simonson, chief economist, AGC, says it is time to rethink the way the nation educates and prepares workers. Students need to be exposed to these careers from a young age.

Construction is doing its part and taking steps to attain and retain workers, while also training teams and leveraging technology to fill in the gaps. To start with recruitment, we see 63% of survey respondents report they added online strategies to connect better with younger applicants. Think using social media or targeted digital advertising. This is up from 39% in the 2022 survey.

When it comes time to train, many are tailoring their internal programs to address that many candidates lack the basic hard and soft skills needed to do the job. We see here 41% of companies are spending on training and professional development programs while 25% are enhancing their online and video training capabilities. Another 14% are using AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) to better train workers.

Speaking of technology, it is becoming an even greater priority today than it has been in the past. In fact, 91% of construction companies agree that their employees need to possess digital technology skills to be successful. But which technology exactly? Almost half say that AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics will positively impact construction costs by automating manual, error-prone tasks. Additionally, 41% say it will improve the quality of construction jobs and will make workers safer and more productive.

With all of this in mind, what then does the future hold? What can we expect as we move closer to 2024? Well, it is a combination of things. For one, the labor shortage will continue, necessitating new recruiting and training strategies from firms. Further, technology will become more widespread for both training and automating tasks on the job. We can expect a future where workers are still scarce, and innovation is beginning to soar.

But what about the fact that it is five times as likely for education to encourage students to enroll in college than prepare them for fields in construction? Simonson says it will take years to rebuild the nation’s career and technical education. So don’t expect that problem to be fixed overnight.

Throughout the next few weeks, let’s really dig into some predictions I am sorry I’ve been remiss in not reaching out sooner. As someone committed to strategic marketing, customer-first, evangelizing, disruption, collaborative environment, idea-generating, and worker of tomorrow, I would like to connect. I am certain there is much to learn from you. Peggyto better plan for the year ahead. Let’s look at the supply chain and the technologies that will enable projects to be completed on time, on budget, and in a way that is safer for all. Let’s look at what will actually come to fruition in 2024—and what to expect further out. Next week, let’s continue our conversation on what the predictions are taking center stage.

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