Overall growth in the construction industry indicates now is the time for contractors to take advantage of an improving economy to expand their business. Whether their market is retail, warehouse or lodging–where growth is expected to be strong—or in a segment that relies on federal funding like marine or direct federal construction—where forecasts are less optimistic—finding and retaining qualified people can be a challenge. Who would have thought that the downside of an improving economy would be a workforce shortage? Yet that’s exactly what contractors across the country are faced with as the industry prepares to hire again.
There are plenty of jobs, but where are the workers? The number of available construction jobs has seen a significant increase over the previous year, adding more than 273,000 jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics survey released on June 5, 2015.1 After several years of cautious expansion, construction firms are beginning to expand only to be faced with the growing challenge of finding qualified workers. Retirement rates remain high and many others who left the industry during the recession have new training and are now unlikely to return.
The AGC of America’s 2015 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook reports that firms who are hiring indicate having a hard time finding qualified craft workers to fill vacancies, while 62 percent say the same about professional positions such as project managers, supervisors and estimators.2 As the supply of qualified construction workers tightens, contractors must embrace a variety of tactics to continue to attract and retain employees.
There’s no denying the negative financial impact of high turnover rates and with a shortage of workers, competition among contractors for the best workers will increase. Contractors who experience higher retention rates realize profits on more jobs, complete more projects on or ahead of schedule and experience better safety performance. So how do contractors attract and retain qualified workers? The Construction Industry Institute report, Attracting and Maintaining a Skilled Workforce (RR135-11) recommends providing competitive wage and benefit packages, monitoring and using retention rates to diagnose staffing trends, providing a safe workplace, implementing a skill assessment process, adopting a certification program to ensure qualified workers and treating employees with respect.3
Could the greatest challenge facing the construction industry over the next decade be attracting and retaining qualified workers? What steps is your company taking to address this challenge?
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics, June 5 2015, Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/ceshighlights.pdf
2 Ready to Hire Again: The 2015 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook, Retrieved from https://www.agc.org/sites/default/files/Files/Executive/2015%20Construction%20Hiring%20and%20Business%20Outlook%20Report.pdf
3 Attracting and Maintaining a Skilled Workforce (RR135-11), Retrieved from https://www.construction-institute.org/scriptcontent/more/rr135_11_more.cfm