The state of the labor market depends on the industry, and the construction industry had 438,000 jobs open this September in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Associated Builders and Contractors report the industry needs to attract more than a half million workers, in addition to the normal hiring pace in 2023, to meet the demand for labor. In fact, the need for workers will become progressively more dire as 41% of the construction workforce is set to retire in the next eight years.
The need for workers becomes more urgent as the country continues to grow. Texas, alone, gained more than nine million new residents between 2000 and 2022, and Florida comes in second with a gain of six million new residents (Census Bureau). As the population grows, the need for the appropriate infrastructure escalates, including roads, schools, hospitals, homes, transportation hubs and more.
Encourage Construction Careers
Some young people know they want to go into construction because they have family in the industry. Others are not aware of all the opportunities available. I started cleaning up on construction sites at the age of 12, but I thought I wanted to go into the computer industry. I quickly learned, being inside at a desk all day was not for me. I took a job as a laborer, became a welder, started my own welding business and became a union pipe fitter, learning it all on the job.
Not every person is made for college, but many high school graduates may not realize they can learn what they need on the job through training or apprenticeship programs. Once students realize they get paid while learning how to do a trade, it can be a great motivator to pursue a career in construction. The only prerequisite is a work ethic, the rest can be taught.
Filling the talent pipeline now is important. Collaborating with schools and community organizations, such as FFA, 4-H and Scouts, can introduce young people to the industry and pique their interest. Also, participating in career fairs, job expos and job site tours can highlight the myriad careers and benefits of working in the construction industry.
Highlight Career Paths
The popular image of construction is manual labor. This is true for some positions, but it does not encompass the complete array of job possibilities. Underscore the diverse range of job opportunities in construction, from skilled trades like carpentry and plumbing to roles in project management, engineering, technology, marketing, business development, and design. Young talent may not realize the vast amount of creativity and innovation involved in construction projects with tools and emerging technologies like precision cutting equipment, drone piloting, digital twins, BIM, AI, and virtual reality.
Offer Training and Education
Partnering with high schools, vocational-technical schools or organizations like the ACE Mentor Program of America to provide information on available training programs like internships or apprenticeship programs helps prime talent to enter the field.
Emphasize Competitive Compensation and Benefits
A career in construction can provide great earning potential as someone works their way through the ranks. It is also important to emphasize compensation and benefit opportunities as new hires are learning a trade, essentially getting paid for their education. Construction is also a very stable industry, so job security is practically guaranteed as there is an ongoing demand for skilled workers.
When working within student organizations, it is important to conduct outreach to underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. When future talent sees someone who looks like them in construction, there is a higher likelihood that they can imagine themselves taking the same career path.
The construction industry is a place where people can get hurt if they do not follow safety precautions. Emphasizing the safety measures taken every day to ensure worker safety can calm any fears for those considering the profession. And those interested in safety measures can find their career path in this area of concentration.
Sustainable building practices are becoming more prevalent in every project and increasingly important to workers and clients. Promoting sustainable building practices and how they fit into construction careers can pique the interest of those who are considering careers in environmental conservation. EDGE, LEED and GREEN STAR are all areas where we will see increased concentration and improvements due to the innovations coming from the workforce of the future.
It's Up to Us
Those currently in the construction industry play a crucial role in filling the current and foreseeable skills gap. The proactive measures taken today to attract and retain skilled workers can only help narrow the skills gap and provide a steady flow of workers as we fulfill the building needs of our growing nation. There are viable and fulfilling construction careers at all levels. It is up to the current workforce to help promote and showcase the opportunities within the industry.
Randy Pitre serves as the vice president of operations for Skanska USA Building’s North Texas and Houston building operations. Skanska has a long history in Texas; its projects in the state can be traced back nearly 60 years. Skanska operates as a local Texas builder and developer backed by a strong global brand, financial strength, and a vast network of resources. To learn more visit www.usa.skanska.com.