My childhood definitely influenced my decision to build my business with a focus on the construction industry. I grew up on a farm in Montana. Every Saturday my siblings and I were presented with a list of chores and I would negotiate to get as many of the “outside” jobs as possible. I loved helping my dad in the shop and in the garden, anything I could do to work with my hands. Unfortunately, farm-grown kids who love to work outside are not easy to find anymore.

I now work with contractors that represent a wide variety of companies, and when I ask them about the most challenging part of their business, every one of them tells me that they need to find more qualified workers. With the state unemployment rate hovering right around 3 percent, one can’t help but wonder where they’ll find those workers.

As the Committee Chair for the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Workforce Development Committee, I have studied this topic extensively over the last three years and have worked with the committee to develop a strategic plan. First, we needed to understand the root causes of the worker shortage.

Over 75 percent of construction companies recently surveyed by the national AGC, plan to expand their payrolls in 2017 as both the public and private sectors continue to grow. At the same time the industry is expanding, many of the qualified, capable workers are nearing retirement age. The statistics are staggering when we realize how many potential positions exist right now, and how that number will increase exponentially over the next decade.

Studies show that growing competition for workers is prompting 56 percent of firms to increase base pay rates for hourly craft professionals. 43 percent of firms have increased their reliance on subcontractors because of tight labor conditions. Even safety appears to be impacted, with 15 percent of firms reporting an increase in injuries and illnesses because of worker shortages.

Utilizing AGC resources and a professional research firm, we strategically gathered and analyzed information from the many areas that affect the workforce shortage. We used formal focus groups (consisting of a professional facilitator and groups of 18-26 year-olds) and watched the conversations from an observation room, as well as held in-depth interviews with millennials currently working in the construction industry.

Combining this research with insights gathered from training class individuals, the following attitudes are shared by many currently working in the construction industry:

  1. Industry culture stresses the need to obtain a college education in order to be “successful”
  2. Construction means a career of hard physical work that will debilitate their bodies
  3. Lack of awareness for industry positions other than that of laborer
  4. Do not see opportunities for career advancement or potential

One of AGC’s goals is to change these perceptions and attitudes, ultimately helping the general public to better understand the value of the construction industry and the career opportunities available.

The workforce shortage crisis can be overwhelming. But there are a few things you can do:

  1. Perform professional research to have a better understanding on how to recruit and retain younger workers to the construction industry.
  2. Work with the Utah School Counselor Association to create greater awareness of the career opportunities available.
  3. Create a “tool kit” including a website, videos and printed collateral that will be used to in educational and recruiting efforts.

While there will always be a percentage of the potential employees that attend college and never consider a career in construction, there are also thousands of potential employees that simply don’t know these opportunities exist. Let’s work together to identify, recruit and retain these quality individuals that will help us build America in the future!

Sydne Jacques
Jacques & Associates