Between 2006 and 2011, the construction industry lost over two million jobs, and in 2010 the industry had a 26% unemployment rate. Although jobs have slowly returned as we leave the recession behind, many of the skilled workers have not. They left out of necessity and didn’t return once the economy rebounded. This has created a labor shortage in the industry for over a decade. According to the USG Corporation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, the shortage has forced 63% of firms to increase rates, 70% to struggle to hit deadlines, and 40% to reject new projects. In the face of these challenges, it is increasingly important for construction companies to stand out in crowded markets.
To make matters worse, the younger generation is less likely to view construction as a viable career path. According to a survey of contractors, young workers have negative perceptions of the construction industry. Apparently 61% of millennials and Generation Zers view construction jobs as “dirty” jobs, 55% believe they only require mindless strength, and 52% see them as temporary jobs instead of careers. Despite misconceptions, there is an opportunity for construction companies to re-educate young workers on the advantages of pursuing a career in this high-potential industry.
Firms are making big changes to attract and retain qualified workers. According to a survey from the Associated General Contractors of America, 60% of respondents have increased pay, 29% have offered incentives/bonuses, and 25% have improved employee benefits. In addition, 55% of firms have recognized a need for on-the-job training and opportunities for advancement. The challenge, however, is balancing these employee-focused programs and higher pay with a caring culture that retains employees once they have been trained. This marks a distinctive opportunity for companies who are willing to rebrand themselves to become more appealing to future generations of skilled laborers.