There is an obvious gap that should concern construction professionals everywhere. We’ve all seen it, experienced it, and been witness to the gap — sometimes within our own families. It’s the gap that exists between that time in a child’s life when playing with construction trucks and Tonka toys and dump trucks is super fun and cool…and the time when it somehow becomes less acceptable as an interest–much less a career.
For those of us who live and breathe the construction life, we know that construction has so much to offer someone who is interested. I Build America – Kentucky is helping to close the gap and encourage individuals–young, old, and in between–to continue exploring construction. Only now, we want to upgrade them to the big machines!
The labor shortage across Kentucky’s construction workforce is not a challenge that developed overnight. For years, we’ve seen the problem growing as more of our workforce retires, and it becomes harder and harder to fill positions. And, even when an individual applies, it’s important that the person is the right fit for the job–otherwise safety, quality of work, and long-term success is at stake.
The impact of the labor shortage is taking a toll on our industry. In fact, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, 44% of companies have seen higher project costs. Not only are projects costing more, 40% report that projects are taking longer to complete, too.
The current state of the industry is anything but sustainable. We know that a strong team is critical to any construction company’s success and individual employees’ wellbeing. In fact, the longer we go without the next generation of the workforce, the more at risk we feel. According to the survey of construction employers, 57% cite the shortage as the biggest challenge to worker health and safety.
The next generation of our workforce will be critical in creating the construction industry of the future. We are constantly looking to creative solutions to the workplace shortage, and one of the areas of focus continues to be young people who are still in school.
But how can we attract students to the industry? I Build America – Kentucky is on a mission to help our industry do just that. Our efforts are reflected well by Construction Executive, a publication that shared five strategies to connect with students.
- Integrate technology
Today’s students have grown up with technology. Born well after the invention of the internet, personal computers, and even cell phones, technology is simply a part of who they are and what they dream of doing in their careers long-term. To attract students, show how you’re utilizing technology to get the job done. While our industry might be relatively slow in regards to adopting new technologies, we have come a long way. Make sure you’re using the most advanced project management software, BIM, and job site technology to attract the tech-minded generations. And, let it be known that technological creativity is encouraged at your company.
- Get into classrooms
To get students to where you need them, you need to meet them where they are now. It’s time to get out of the office and into the classroom. People of any age, but especially children and teens, love working with their hands. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing the fruits of their labor right away. Help them realize that sense of accomplishment by bringing the best part of your business to their classroom. Create a team of your top employees to work with students, bringing intriguing projects that will foster their interest in design and engineering. If an ongoing mentorship isn’t realistic, set up one day per school year to present to students, highlighting the best parts about working in construction.
- Offer collegiate partnership programs
To tap into older students, collaborate with your local community colleges and universities. To truly add value to their educational experience, recruit students to participate in a program that both educates and provides real-world experience working for you. While you’re training your ideal candidates, students will enjoy the opportunity to earn as they learn and educators will appreciate the enrichment in education you can provide to accompany standard coursework.
- Donate to career programs
If establishing a program is unrealistic, consider supporting students financially. Today’s higher education is incredibly expensive, often with a high debt-to-income ratio. Showing your support to student success today will give you the opportunity to share the benefits of working in construction, one being highly competitive pay.
- Network with teachers
Educators can be your biggest champions. They are able to identify students that have a natural knack for design and engineering and can guide them to a career choice fit for their skills. Most teachers, however, don’t know much about the construction industry. Take the time to connect with teachers of every grade level, coordinating field trips, class presentations, or activities that will spark construction industry interest and expand educators’ awareness.
As business owners, it’s time to dedicate your time and energy to bring in the next generation of skilled workers. The efforts we make today will impact the industry for years to come. For additional resources, click here.
Photo: Kentucky construction professional working on Louisville City FC’s stadium.