During the core of the Great Recession, employment in the construction industry dropped by 2.3 million, making it the biggest percent decline in a non-farm industry. Many laborers were forced out and had to find work where they could. Many went back to school or joined other professions. Now that the economy is improving and the industry is back on its feet, all of those workers are well into new careers in various industries. A June 2015 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that there are over 273,000 available construction jobs, showing a significant increase over previous years. The challenge lies in not having enough qualified workers to fill the massive demand for employees. Labor shortages in the construction industry are widespread, and it's taking time for conditions to improve. Employers still find it difficult to find workers, which continues to hinder companies that are trying to expand.
It is no longer enough to simply have a job opening. Prospects want to have some sense of security and they want to feel respected. When treated with respect and consideration, employees will feel empowered to do their best work. The construction industry is not the only industry in need of workers. You are not only contending with your competitors but also with other industries. The construction industry will have to create a workplace that continually attracts and retains top talent.
Not Your Parents' Construction Industry
The industry has experienced a lot of changes in the last 25 years. Millennials may not be as interested in the construction industry because of misconceptions from what they have heard from their parents or grandparents. Five major changes in the construction industry are:
- Technology—Jobsites now utilize smartphones, drones, 3-D printing and other technologies. Workers can now successfully operate technology worth thousands of dollars.
- Safety regulations —Stricter protocols and guidelines are protecting not only the safety and health of the employee, but also of the customer. There is much more supervision over safety to help keep workers away from potential danger.
- Demand—Currently, there is a high demand for construction workers, and the gap is only growing. With technology advancing at such a rapid rate, it has caused consumers to get bored and look for the next greatest thing. The construction industry can reap the benefits of consumers desiring such a lifestyle.
- Training—There is a higher value on training and qualifications, more so now than ever before. Training keeps employees in line with technology and safety. Now that the construction industry has become a recognized skill, it puts a higher demand on training employees.
- Culture—This is not just about creating a great environment to work in; it is also about increasing productivity and profitability. Happy employees will work harder and faster, and the competition won't easily steal them. Employees that are treated well take value and ownership in their work, and they will also pass on positive connotations about a career in construction. Construction should be appealing to future generations who like to work with their hands.
Hiring Millennials to Close the Labor Gap
By 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the United States workforce. However, only 7 percent of young adult respondents were interested in obtaining a job in construction, retail or manufacturing. With the industry currently facing a worker shortage, a 7-percent interest is not nearly enough to fill all of the open positions. The industry as a whole needs to work together to find a way to attract new hires. Raised in the technology age, millennials depend on technology being readily available to them. They spend time researching technology because they want to complete tasks in the fastest way possible. They enjoy bringing new ideas and innovations into the workplace. Results drive millennials. They measure success by how much gets done, rather than the number of hours they punched. Millennials prefer meaningful work, which suggests they want to feel connected and included with their team.
They also want flexible work schedules and career opportunities that allow them to move higher up in the company and into a position where they can obtain leadership positions. Most millennials want a job in which there is a variety of opportunities. Construction trades offer a diverse set of career opportunities. There are many opportunities to move up into leadership roles and advance throughout the company in this industry.
Millennials bring many positive attributes to the industry. They will do the technology research for you, and they will let you know what they think, which will help you get your projects done faster. They will also be excited to learn. Because there is a skilled labor gap, it is difficult to hire experienced personnel. When you start filling your labor gap with millennial hires, play off of their attributes to keep them engaged.