The construction industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and the most robust, with an estimated $1.3 trillion in construction projects in 2019 alone. Of course, with this level of success comes corresponding challenges, including where to find the best workers. With a shortage of skilled workers, construction companies face a unique challenge: where to find the best workers with the best job skills to recruit for now and into the future.
It’s vital for a construction business to plan ahead, as technology is advancing almost faster than we can keep up with, and without workers who have the proper skills, it can be easy to get left behind. That means as consumers and businesses are seeing increased spending capacity and a staggering number of construction firms looking to hire more skilled workers, the field is going to get more competitive. Let’s examine how you can predict the future of the construction industry in terms of workforce and determine which job skills you need to recruit for right now.
The numbers regarding recruitment in the construction industry over the next year are stunning. A whopping 79% of construction companies are looking to hire skilled labor in the next year. Ninety-five percent of contractors have seen it as a challenge to find workers with the right job skills to recruit for their pool. Women comprise about 9.1% of the current workforce in construction, as opposed to representing 47% of the total workforce in all industries. Hispanics comprise about 29% of the construction workforce. Only 6% of veterans end up in construction.
Age is another factor in finding skilled workers. Twenty percent of workers are expected to retire in the next decade, and only 3% of millennials reported being interested in a construction-related career. Among those not interested, 32% cited a view that construction work is too challenging, while 48% cited a desire for less physically demanding jobs.
These numbers point to some interesting trends and needs in the construction industry. Women and veterans comprise a largely untapped workforce, while it’s important to continue to recruit and expand the presence of Hispanic workers. Younger workers will be vital, so it’s important to work on changing the perception of construction careers among young people.
Know Your Staff and Capabilities
The first step in hiring for the future involves knowing what skills are well-represented among your staff and which job skills you need to recruit to fill in the gaps. Because construction workers need a broad range of skills to perform their duties, it can be tricky to discover where the gaps lie. There are several ways to accomplish this.
First, you can perform interviews. Take the time to bring each member of your staff in and talk to them about their skills, proficiencies and what they are best at doing. Ask if there are any skills they have that aren’t being utilized and where they would like to see their skills applied. This will give you a direct, one-to-one perspective of the skills of your crew.
Next, anonymous surveys can be an outstanding way to get an unbiased poll of how your staff feels. People are much more willing to be honest if they don’t have to attach their name or face to their opinions, and you may get some insight from an unfiltered set of replies.
Finally, look closely at your ongoing staff assessments and performance reviews. You may well find information in these documents that’s quite useful in determining where skills are needed and where they are plentiful.
Job Training and Development
After you’ve taken a good look at your staff’s current abilities and needs, you may uncover some members of your staff who have undeveloped skills. A great option to prepare for the future can be to train those who are interested in developing skills they already have to a greater level that can serve you in the future.
Training your existing staff can be less costly than hiring new employees, and it ensures that you’re keeping a worker who has already provided value to you and the company. Many workers can also see such training and development as a reward for loyal service, which can help to keep them on board. Be careful, however, not to overwork the staff. If you want to engage an existing worker in a new role, consider whether it’s reasonable to add that role to their existing duties, whether a raise in salary is called for or whether a brand-new job role should be created.
Which Job Skills to Recruit for the Future
Knowing what construction job skills to target for when moving forward can be tricky and requires predictive hiring practices to understand, analyze and invest in the right technology and approaches for future skills. Companies in other industries such as air travel, banking and even retail are adopting predictive hiring, and the construction industry needs to follow suit.
Predictive hiring uses a specific set of analytics based on historical data to make predictions regarding future needs. The technology used in predictive analytics detects patterns among the current workforce and reduces reliance upon traditional intuition-based job interviews and brief resume screenings. Resumes and interviews, while important, create bias and are not predictive of success.
There are many different models of predictive analytics, and you’ll need to research and determine which is the best for your needs, from random data sets to decision trees and others. These methods all, however, seek to increase the quality of hires and decrease the time to hire through more consistent decisions and an improved job candidate experience.
The Future of Construction
The future of the construction industry is technology-based and green. That much is a fact. You need workers with job skills that allow them to slot seamlessly into this coming world. Artificial intelligence, software and technology packages, autonomous construction equipment, drones and more are becoming more commonplace in the industry, and that’s only going to grow in the future. If you’re holding off on adopting drones and construction management software packages because you think they’re a fad, it’s time to let your concerns go and adopt.
The role of factories and off-site prefabrication is also rapidly growing, and factories that use advanced manufacturing systems for prefabricated modules that can be assembled on-site are the wave of the future. Construction activities will move more and more to factories and away from on-site fabrication of materials.
We’re also seeing a green building reboot. The environment is of ever greater concern to builders and businesses. Even as the current administration relaxes restrictions, the public perception is that green is good, and businesses want to be seen as responsible. That means you’ll want to invest in sustainable technologies and green building materials to match up to the needs of your clients.
The key to all of this is virtual and computer technology. That means the future of construction lies more than ever with advanced STEM education and jobs. The most valuable employees in the construction field have a powerful understanding of science and engineering, more so than ever before. These employees can make on-the-spot decisions that are educated and informed, covering everything from the best building materials to how different construction materials and methods combine for good or ill.
It’s important for construction companies to look to STEM programs for the next generation of workers. Partner with universities, technical schools and even high schools that focus on such programs and work to match up specific skills with your future needs. Just a few of these new and emerging fields that directly tie into the construction industry include robotics engineers, assembly technicians, 3D visualizers, drone pilots and others.
The ACE Mentor Program of America is a powerful force in bringing STEM students into construction. It reached over 8,000 students in the United States in the 2016-2017 season. Partnering with such organizations can be a vital step toward finding the skilled workers you need to recruit for the future.
In a 2018 report to the World Economic Forum titled “Shaping the Future of Construction: Future Scenarios and Implications for the Industry,” there are a number of enlightening predictions about the future of construction, some of which have already come to pass. The report concluded that in the future of construction, certain skills will be essential.
Technology skills for the future include expertise in AI, computer programming and data analysis. Experts will also be needed who possess lean process skills and have experience with logistics and modular design. Finally, the industry will need experts in resilience, engineers trained in resource efficiency and specialists in a circular economy.
To draw such talent, managers and company owners will need to look to new and untapped markets. Perhaps not surprisingly, the gaming industry is a field that is ripe for finding the next generation of tech-based construction professionals. There are, however, a number of resource pools for the industry that have yet to be thoroughly mined for the next generation of workers.
It’s perhaps unfortunate, but the construction industry is rarely perceived as innovative. The leading companies in today’s market, however, are taking this perception to task and working hard to create and innovate new technologies to improve collaboration and decision-making, predict and avoid problems and increase overall efficiency and safety. This is accomplished with outside-the-box thinking and new ways to use and combine virtual-, augmented- and mixed-reality technology.
If you don’t have anyone in your crew who can use a 3D virtual mockup to model the details of a particularly complicated project ahead of time, now is the time to consider recruiting for such job skills. VR and AR can help you to identify and solve potential problems long before they occur, while also allowing the end-user to view a virtual mockup of what the end product will look like to avoid last-minute alterations.
In order to properly utilize these technologies, a range of skills is required, including computer programming, computer-aided drafting and design, drone piloting and many others. Putting them together in the right package to work to move the construction industry forward requires constant innovation and outside-the-box thinking. So the more innovators you have, the better positioned you’ll be for the future.
Women currently comprise a very low percentage of construction workers, and yet more and more young girls are entering STEM education fields every year. While partnering with STEM institutions, construction companies can consider creating and funding scholarship programs to allow women to pursue these careers. Work to partner with institutions with the specific goal of attracting female workers, including internship programs.
It’s also important, however, to work to improve conditions for women, according to both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Association of Women in Construction. Specific issues include adding proper PPE — or personal protective equipment — for women, improving sanitation and reducing workplace harassment and intimidation. Efforts need to be made to improve the environment for women workers to ensure equality in treatment and perception. When hiring for the future, women should comprise an increased portion of your strategic plan.
Veterans coming out of military service possess many job skills that can be vital to the construction industry. Programs to attract veterans can include scholarship programs to augment what they gain from their service, incentives, benefits and more. Job training to further improve veterans’ skills can be an attractive prospect as well. Full benefit programs including both health care and mental health coverage can be an important incentive to attract this demographic. Many veterans find it difficult to get back into the workforce after coming home, and a career in construction can be a great opportunity if the industry pursues this untapped market.
Millennials comprise a massive labor pool, and with a full 20% of the workforce — the baby boomers — retiring within the next several years, soon the millennial generation will control the workforce. Unfortunately, the majority of millennials claim they would never consider a career in construction.
Because these are the men and women who possess the important construction job skills you need to recruit for the future, it’s vital that the industry is presented in a new light, one that isn’t associated with unskilled manual labor, but rather is seen as integral to the creative future of our society. Look at the things skilled millennial workers demand — flexible work schedules, a careful work-life balance and the right benefits and incentives — and offer what you can to draw and keep this vital workforce.
Hiring for the Future
Partnerships are essential to hiring for the future. The construction industry needs to draw more skilled workers from untapped pools and recruit those with job skills in the STEM fields, particularly technology and innovation skills. A more savvy workforce that is capable of embracing off-site fabrication, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and even drone piloting will provide the core of what you need to take your company to the next level.
Women, veterans and millennials form the most important untapped markets for new workers, but the industry needs to work on its image to draw skilled labor from these pools. Better safety, less workplace intimidation and the right benefits and incentives such as onsite training, tuition reimbursement and work-life balance are essential to recruiting and keeping good workers who possess the construction job skills you need for the future.
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