Finding the New Construction Workforce

There isn’t a shortage of workers, there’s a shortage of people willing to accept the […]

There isn’t a shortage of workers, there’s a shortage of people willing to accept the working conditions that today’s economy often demands. The construction industry must educate and attract people willing to try.

As Congress continues to debate the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the construction industry continues their struggle to find workers for the 300,000 unfilled job we had as of July 2021. The Biden Administration estimates that if its $1.2 trillion plan is enacted, the legislation will create up to two million new jobs per year for a decade. Many, if not most, of those new jobs would be in the construction industry.

These newly created jobs are going to be a problem for an industry, and a country, already struggling with their workforce issues. The labor shortage in the construction industry was an issue long before COVID-19. However, as millions of Americans who were working before the pandemic are still out of work, the shortage of workers across the country is an escalating issue for many different industries. 

Thanks to pandemic stimulus programs during both the Trump and Biden administrations, many families have received multiple checks from the federal government over the past 18 months. Americans have money in their pockets and currently may not need to work, or can be selective with the type of work they do decide upon.

At some point, these people will need to return to the workforce. As an industry we need to work to find ways to bring them to a career in construction. 

Attracting the Workers

Finding workers in places different than where we have found them in the past will be key. How these workers look will also need to be different.

Based on the latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  30.7% of construction professionals are Hispanic or Latino, while 6.2% are African American, and only 2% are Asian. Roughly 10% of construction professionals are women. Many contractors are actively trying to recruit more women and people of color, but it is a slow process, often hamstrung by negative perceptions of the industry. 

This is where education will be key to attracting our future workforce. Without changing anything we’re doing today, we can show potential employees the lucrative careers these jobs can provide. Solid careers with promising, sky-is-the-limit futures for smart, hardworking professionals are available right now, no costly college degree required. 

The Future of Construction Careers

We have entered a new era of tight labor markets. With more Americans choosing not to work — including aging baby boomers — companies may need to consider increasing pay and improving working conditions to attract employees.        

As the existing workforce exits the industry and new technological innovation changes how projects are imagined and built, the industry has a unique opportunity to attract a new type of worker who may never have given construction a second thought. While today’s emerging workforce likely has the technical aptitude for a job in construction, most have not considered it as career, perhaps because they’re not aware of the orientation toward technology.

Changing construction’s perception is an industry-wide issue that needs to be solved from a multitude of angles, starting by exposing students to the technology that’s driving the industry forward. 

While the trades have evolved and modernized exponentially over the past few years, public perception of them has not. Hopefully, a major investment in infrastructure by the Biden administration will help shine an additional light on the industry but it’s up to all of us to spread the word in both professional and personal interactions that the trades are a smart and viable option. The future success of our industry depends on it.