As a member of the Dexter + Chaney team, a millennial and a former construction worker, some of the common perceptions about construction strike a particular chord with me. My family comes from a construction background spanning several generations, so I have the unique perspective of having grown up with construction before I began working for a company that creates construction software. It’s through this window that I have noticed a severe underrepresentation of marketing for construction related careers. This may be why the current entrants aren’t looking at construction as a career:
I think back to my own and my friends’ interactions with our career counseling. We were always pushed towards college being the endgame. Universities heavily promote at high school and community college campuses, and student outreach programs from universities would come to our school to speak about their programs. The construction trades were always underrepresented, if represented at all. We were shown many options in the ways of colleges to attend, but rarely were there options related to working as a skilled laborer. There wasn’t any information, so few of us considered learning a trade as an option.
Colleges around the country know that to get students to attend, they need to show what to expect when going to their schools. This is where construction companies could be doing more. The trend is ticking upward in construction businesses being proactive about recruiting, but there’s still a lot of room to improve.
No longer can the industry rely on word of mouth or applicant drop-ins to find new workers. There is more that can be done to make construction businesses more inviting. What’s exciting is that there are many opportunities to reach young workers today, more than there were 30 years ago.
Working for a Brand Vs. Building a Product
How millennials think about career building is heavily influenced by the media they consume. The tech boom brought about fascinating and useful products. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple are attractive places to work because of all the interesting products and services they offer. These jobs are so high in demand that millennials are eager to take any opportunity with businesses like this. It doesn’t matter what the position is because they are working for someone whose products they love. This has created a disconnect in what millennials, and even the older generations, see in job value. Pride in a job has shifted to working for a brand, as opposed to working to create a finished product. It’s tough to control such external influences, but there are opportunities for the industry as a whole to join in such conversations.
What Can Be Done?
The talent is out there to be discovered. Here are a few steps the industry can take to attract that talent.
- Think long-term—Posting a job ad on a career site or in the newspaper used to be the way for everyone to attract applicants, but the landscape has changed and the construction industry must adapt. Contractors need to be proactive in recruiting. If someone on your crew were to leave, what would you do? Contractors could coordinate with school advisors to get their name in front of high school students or have an outreach coordinator spending time at the schools doing Q&A sessions. The key is getting prospects interested in construction and providing industry information. If you already have a pipeline of skilled individuals, it will streamline the hiring process. Stock your pond with qualified people so that when the time comes to hire, you have a good idea of the skills landscape. The personal connection also creates a great first impression of your business. Millennials value open and constant communication.
- Establish an online presence—Having a website to reference is powerful when keeping millennial workers in mind. So much of the media we consume anymore is internet based. Getting a Facebook page would also be helpful. Not only can prospective employees gain insight about your business, they can see what clients or current employees have to say. And if you don’t have the resources to get company representatives to job fairs and career days, this is a great way to stay in front of the millennial crowd.
- Get involved in the community—Participating in events where the community gathers is a great way to get your company in front of young people, and also a chance to show your business’ work culture. Charitable events and athletic sponsorships are a great place to start. High school students remember companies who helped them and make it possible to participate in their favorite activities.
The skilled labor gap has created a problem in the construction trades, but the problem itself is laden with opportunity. Jobs in construction are growing at the moment, as is the number of new entrants to the workforce. Contractors can narrow the gap by adapting new approaches for attracting skilled workers. You know the values your company holds, and you know the message you want to send when people see your brand. Right now, the industry’s message is simply a little lost in the crowd.
By being proactive and entering the conversation when young people are choosing their career paths, the industry as a whole will benefit. It’s never too early to get in front of our youth to educate them about possible careers. Like anything you build, the planning and preparation are key—building a pipeline of talent is no different.
What is your business doing to start a dialogue with the millennial generation?