The construction industry currently has an issue – massive labor shortages resulting in a skills gap that’s more like a chasm. While streamlined hiring processes can help, many companies are also realizing they urgently need to upskill their current workforce. And while the construction industry added 44,000 jobs between September and October, according to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the association say those gains, while welcome, remain well below pre-pandemic totals as firms struggle with supply chain problems, labor shortages and federal inaction on infrastructure funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted owners to delay or cancel projects, costing the construction industry more than 975,000 jobs last April, according to a survey by the AGC. The uncertainty about future projects likely has also affected workers, causing many to jump ship from construction altogether, leading to a wider skills gap than ever before. But there are other reasons for the lack of available skilled labor.
Why are there so few workers?
Baby Boomers Are Retiring
AGC’s research found that more than 10,000 of the 81 million Baby Boomers in the US are retiring every single day. Currently, Baby Boomers represent 41% of the construction workforce and those that are sticking around are going to retire in the next 10 years. Once this generation has left the workforce, the construction industry will be facing a significant skills gap in the talent pool.
Young People Aren’t Going into Construction
More young people are choosing to pursue a degree post-graduation instead of going straight into the workforce. According to a federal report, the US will have 3.4 million unfilled skilled technical jobs by 2022 as more young people are choosing higher education over learning technical skills. Between an increase in retirement rates and a decrease in new blood, the skills gap has never been wider in the construction industry.
A shrinking labor pool is not only putting a crunch on the construction industry, but many different businesses, forcing employers to compete for workers. There simply aren’t enough workers to go around and employers are stepping up their games to attract top talent.
Adopting technology that supports recruiting and upskilling employees can give construction companies an edge in the upcoming war for talent and close their skills gaps.
Technology for External Recruiting
External recruiting plays a big part in building a deep construction talent pool that fills any skills gaps. Growing companies must recruit to stay viable, especially in construction where more hands equal more work completed. External recruiting practices include posting to multiple job boards and on social media channels plus creating relationships with local schools, community groups, faith-based organizations and veterans organizations as well as attending job fairs and seeking referrals. This is a lot to manage. An applicant tracking system (ATS) can simplify this entire process.
An ATS not only integrates with your careers page, but once job descriptions are uploaded, an ATS can automatically post them to multiple job boards and social media and track your referrals.
An ATS can also filter candidate applications so you get applicants from more than just warm bodies. You get applications from individuals with the potential to be your ideal employees. An ATS lets you set parameters for the application process so only candidates who meet the minimum requirements can apply for a specific position.
Plus, an automated process lets managers track and report on all applicants, including those who weren’t hired for the position, essential for construction companies that must document compliance with hiring requirements for federal contractors or EEO employers.
Technology for Upskilling Your Construction Labor Force
Another solution to a shrinking labor pool and a wide skills gap is to re-skill the employees you have, instead of trying to always recruit and hire new ones. Employers should consider creating an internal talent marketplace that provides employees with alternative career pathways and internal mobility. This means construction companies need to be in tune with future projects and new skills needed and create succession plans for key workers as they retire or transition into new roles.
A strong learning plan provides employees with increased competence and job satisfaction, bolstering retention and company loyalty, ultimately providing higher rates of innovation and increased satisfaction. But how that training is done matters, especially for construction employees. Studies show more employees, especially from younger generations, want to learn independently in a personalized fashion. In fact, 43% of Gen Z’ers say they want fully self-directed and independent on-the-job learning. Online and virtual-based training, like that provided within a learning management system (LMS), along with practical worksite training with demonstrations, hands-on and on-the-job training, can help fill those gaps. An LMS makes it easy to provide and track training completions and certifications for compliance, specifically safety.
Safety training is one area where providing both online and hands-on training just makes sense. Crew members go through online classes, like those provided by ClickSafety, then they go out to the job site and get hands-on training with either the site superintendent or the supervisor foreman. The one-on-one training, in addition to online courses, ensures employees get the training right, which could mean the difference between a safe job site and one riddled with accidents.
Technology to Accurately Predict Your Hiring Needs
Time tracking apps or time clock apps are used by employees to digitally clock in and out. These apps are easy to use and virtually eliminate time theft and payroll processing errors. But they have another huge advantage – they store an incredible amount of data construction companies can use to help identify skills gaps.
The data gleaned from time tracking apps can help you optimize your bottom line and control labor costs because it tells you exactly how many workers clocked both regular and overtime hours at each of our sites. Have a site that’s continually clocking in more OT than others? You may need to offer more training or look at hiring workers with more experience. The apps also track the type of work completed so you can really zero in on who is doing what. This type of data offers a huge clue for the skills your workers already have and what may be missing.
Talent shortages have been an issue for some time. Construction companies need to leverage all the resources at their disposal to hire and retain enough employees to remain competitive. Use an ATS like Arcoro’s to recruit via your website, job boards, social media and referral networks. But don’t stop there. Pair recruiting with reskilling your current workforce. Develop strong learning plans for employees using online learning through an LMS like Arcoro’s, which integrates with ClickSafety for necessary compliance training. And, better predict exactly what skills you need to hire and train for with ExakTime’s time clock app.