Worker Shortages Give Trades Workers New Power.
January’s construction industry employment data showed decreasing demand for jobs. However, February saw the number of job openings grow, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors. *
The good news is that the industry has enough projects to grow actively. The bad news is that there aren’t enough qualified workers.
The pandemic slowdowns led to many skilled workers retiring early or moving to other industries where they could work from home. Many of those workers will not come back. The number of trades workers with five or more years of experience has declined significantly. As those experienced workers retire, not enough new recruits are interested in taking their place.
A Renaissance of the Self-Perform Contractor?
General Contractors would often do all the work on a project. Over time GCs have become construction managers. Hiring subcontractors has given them flexibility and reduced liability.
Today the workforce understands their value. They are looking for something with more security so they don’t have to worry about seasonal slowdowns.
“There’s a huge amount of the craft workforce knowing its worth and expecting benefits commensurate,” Patterson said. Skillit — which counts Brasfield & Gorrie, Haskell and JE Dunn among its clientele — has begun to see a shift toward workers who desire full-time, “W-2” positions, as opposed to seasonal or project-based work, he said.
“Ultimately the labor shortage means you either continue to rely on subcontracting … or take control of your own destiny,” Patterson told Construction Dive. Hiring more full-time tradesworkers is something Patterson said he sees major players doing in the near future. *
Some companies see this as an opportunity to bring expertise in-house, guarantee quality, and increase margins.
Workers are also looking for opportunities for advancement. A company that offers training opportunities can provide advancement and a serious career path.
There is an increasing awareness that the industry must use its influence to drive more interest in people considering careers in the industry.
According to Keyan Zandy, CEO of the Skiles Group, a Richardson, Texas-based contractor, he recently visited his son’s school for career day. Sandy asked the fourth graders what job they wanted to have when they grew up.
Everyone had the same response: a YouTuber.
“So I share that story with people in our industry because I try to explain like, we’re not just competing against each other as general contractors, or trade contractors for talent, we’re competing against every other profession,” he said. *
Women have become an increasing part of the construction industry. Like the fourth graders Zandy mentioned, many women don’t consider construction a career option. While there have been many barriers to women in the past, they now make up to 14% of the industry workforce. Women make up 4.2% of trade workers and supervisors now. **
Encouraging women in the industry will go a long way toward meeting the labor challenges in construction. The National Association of Women in Construction is an organization that strongly advocates for careers and opportunities for women in the industry.
Now may be a perfect time for those in the construction industry to reach out to organizations like this in order to increase the future pool of skilled talent that will move the industry forward.