If you are a contractor, construction professional, roofer… really anyone in the trades, then you know that the labor shortage is taking its toll on the construction industry. How did it get to such a depleted level that it almost seems irreparable? Well, there are a number of contributing factors that got us to what can feel like a point of no return.
According to a recent report by PBS News, the 1970s and 1980s have much to blame as they were times when trades fell by the wayside and the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree became revered. That was really just the beginning of vocational programs and careers in trade losing their allure and developing a lesser image. Fast forward a few decades later, and we are left with upcoming generations that have not learned the true value of vocational training and the opportunities it can bring.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 8% of undergraduates are enrolled in certificate programs which tend to be vocationally oriented. It would seem that now more than ever is a time for a boost in the image of trade occupations, and many company owners that are looking to attract talent are bringing solid facts to the table when rallying for the industry. It has become a matter of rebranding and getting the word out about the value of vocational training. The fact is that the U.S. has 30 million jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and pay an average of $55k per year (source: The Georgetown Center). Based on data provided by The Good Jobs Project, nearly half of all the U.S. states have added good jobs in blue-collar industries for workers without bachelor’s degrees since 1991.
So, with all of this solid information on why there should be more individuals seeking careers in construction, what is taking so long to make it happen? The truth is that we did not get here overnight, and the solution won’t take place that quickly either. There needs to be a shift in culture, and contractors and business owners will be the ones to propel the industry forward. In your business, you can make careers in construction more attractive by becoming a desirable workplace with strong compensation and benefits packages to start. On a broader level, you can begin the work of educating the next workforce in the following ways:
- Educate the Community – Share the statistics and resources regarding the value of vocational careers in your social networks and even ads (where appropriate). When running ads for open positions, consider including information about the growing room within the company and industry and mention any additional perks such as paid education, training and/or on the job training. For tips on recruiting top talent, review our previously published recruiting tips here.
- Join the Movement – There are a number of trade associations (ABC, AGC, NRCA, etc.) and industry-related awareness months (National Construction Safety Week) that gain major attention for the industry. By having your company join a special industry day, effort or association event, you build awareness for your company and the achievements that take place within the industry. Your marketing campaign can get a boost with each event, along with the image of the industry as a whole.
- Educate the Worker – In addition to offering training and education on and off the job to your current crews, consider partnering with a local vocational school or creating your own apprenticeship program to provide opportunities for the younger generations. By partnering with a vocational program at a high school and/or offering internships for local trade or vocational certificate programs, you are investing in more than just your potential next hire… you are investing in the future of the industry.
While there isn’t a quick-fix answer to the labor shortage in construction, there are steps that we can begin taking as contractors and business owners that will open the eyes of the next generation to the world of possibilities in construction.
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