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October 28, 2022

Finding and Hiring the Construction Workforce

The challenge of finding skilled workers continues to be one of the biggest concerns among contractors. The industry is struggling to attract more people to work in construction.

Construction demand is still strong! With that demand and the ongoing labor challenges, including a smaller labor pool and an aging workforce, construction companies struggle to increase their workforce with well qualified candidates.  Consider;  the number of construction workers ages 25-54,  fell 8% over the past decade. On top of that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the industry’s average age of retirement is 61, and more than 1 in 5 construction workers are currently older than 55. More than 40% of construction workforce growth over the past decade consists of low-skilled construction laborers, who represent just 19% of the workforce.

The recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in mid-November of 2021, confirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to invest $1.2 trillion into infrastructure and construction over the next five years. Increasing the available funding for public construction projects is a major plus for many federal contractors and construction firms. With demand high in both the private and public sectors, opportunities abound, as long as companies can keep and build strong teams of both returning and new construction workers. The U.S. construction industry will need an additional 2.2 million net hires from 2022 to 2024, the Washington, DC-based Home Builders Institute noted. 

How do you keep your current workforce?

  • Wages are expected to increase in 2023. 

  • Teaching current employees new skills while on the job. 

  • New support and  perks for families.

Construction firms can learn from workers’ choices and find innovative ways to meet employee needs. Although it can take a long time for procedures in the trades to change, 2022 is an opportunity for the industry to identify where change is needed and start making strides toward reaching those goals. 

Where and how do companies find new employees

A major challenge to recruitment is a series of general misperceptions about what a career in construction offers. 

Contractors point to these positive aspects of careers in construction.

  • 70% highlight the earning potential in this field.

  • 43% point to the opportunities for career advancement. 

  • 37% recognize the ability to gain skills on the job  

  • 27% identify diversity of work experiences among the top 3 reasons 

Are they missing something?  Only 25% regard the satisfaction of creating a significant structure such as building or a bridge as an outcome that would be an attraction to a career in  construction. That is an important aspect relatively unique to this profession.  When looking at reporting of what the new, younger workforce is looking for, that type of potential for job satisfaction needs to be stressed.

Many of these advantages listed above are not sufficiently well known outside of the industry.

Contractors point to other perceived challenges.

  • The misconception that construction is a dirty job

  • People think construction work is about brute strength, not innovation

  • Many people believe construction is just a job and not a career

  • The misconception that you can’t support a family on the pay 

Overcoming these misperceptions about the industry, sometimes by those in that very industry, is crucial to recruiting more people to consider construction as a career choice. Contractors themselves believe the best way to recruit new workers in general is to create a better reputation for high pay for the industry, to develop more apprenticeship programs, and to make the pathway to advancement in this industry more evident. 

When contractors were asked to describe how they recruit people, even placing traditional advertisements for workers was a solution pointed to by less than half of the respondents. The focus on high pay, good benefits and that path to advancement are crucial to draw in more workers younger than 30.  Nearly one third  also think it is important to offer younger workers the opportunity to work with advanced technology as a recruitment strategy.  Data also shows that contractors are, for the most part, not prioritizing their outreach to under-represented populations in the industry. Many construction companies are waking up and finally looking beyond their historic demographics to appeal to women and minority groups.

The funding gap.

The federal government only spends $1 on career training for every $6 it puts into college prep, one of the main reasons so many contractors have a low opinion of the current pipeline for preparing new craft and construction professionals.

Good News!

The barrier to enter a construction career is low, in most cases you can begin a job in construction without a college degree and that is getting noticed! 

Since mid-2020 more than a million students have held off from going to college, opting to work instead. Two-year public schools have been among the hardest hit — they're down about three-quarters of a million students. Skilled-trades programs are not in the boat. Across the country, associate's degree programs and trade school programs in fields like HVAC and electrical service  have seen enrollment numbers swell.

  • Construction Trades are up 5%

  • Architecture and related services are up 4%

  • Trade schools are proven to come with less debt.

  • A trade school will put you into your career two years faster than college.

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