Construction spending is surging, hitting a record $1.257 trillion in November, the Commerce Department reports. But a shortage of qualified construction workers is keeping many construction companies from benefiting from the high demand.
What’s behind the shortage? Demand for new construction dried up during the Great Recession; by 2011, nearly 2.3 million construction industry jobs—over 40% of the industry’s workforce—were gone, The Wall Street Journal reports. Meanwhile, seasoned baby boomer construction workers were reaching retirement age.
Although the construction industry added 210,000 jobs in 2017, hiring still isn’t keeping pace with need. This year, three-fourths of construction companies plan to add employees, but 70% say it’s difficult to find qualified craft workers, such as carpenters, welders, electricians, masons, roofers and plumbers, according to a survey by the Associated General Contractors of America.
The shortage of qualified workers is hitting construction companies where it hurts—in the bottom line. With fewer qualified workers, your firm is more likely to suffer from project delays and poor quality work. The workers you do have will end up working overtime, which costs you money and can lead to dangerous safety slip-ups. Plus, without enough skilled workers to handle potential projects, you’ll lose the opportunity to bid on possible business.
How can you address the shortage of qualified construction workers? Here are 7 tips for attracting and hiring the best.
1. Work with recruiting specialists.
Use recruiting companies that specialize in finding construction workers. Not only will you get qualified workers, you’ll also eliminate the time you’d normally spend reviewing resumes and checking references.
2. Widen your net.
If the same places you normally look for employees aren’t working for you, broaden your scope. For example, the AGCA survey reports that 79% of construction firms are actively recruiting veterans, 70% are actively recruiting women and 64% are actively recruiting African-Americans.
3. Increase pay and benefits.
Half of construction companies the AGCA surveyed have raised base pay rates for craft workers to help fill those jobs; 24% are offering bonuses and incentives; and 20% have increased their employee benefits. Make sure your pay and benefits are competitive for your area.
4. Focus on safety, and talk about it.
The construction industry accounts for about 4% of all U.S. workers, but 21% of worker deaths. Making your construction business a safer place to work helps you attract better quality employees. No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t value their safety, and for construction workers, one on-the-job injury can end their career. OSHA offers safety training courses conducted by qualified trainers to help your company maintain safety standards.
5. Build recruiting pipeline partnerships.
Partner with local high schools, community colleges, trade and vocational schools to reach out to young people interested in construction work careers. See if your state or local government offers programs to encourage students to enter skilled trades.
6. Bring more training in-house.
Entry-level employees interested in construction work may have the right skills, but lack construction experience. You can get over this obstacle by providing high quality in-house training. Having older workers mentor younger ones is a great way for workers nearing retirement age to pass on their knowledge. See if your vendors will train your employees in how to install their products properly.
7. Budget wisely.
Whether you add more internal training programs, retain a recruiting service, or boost your employees’ wages, attracting the skilled construction workers you need will require an outlay of cash.
Fundbox’s small business financing options can help you access the money you need when you need it, so your construction business can take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.