The construction industry is growing steadily. According to a study provided by the AGC, the majority of firms surveyed stated they expect the demand for all types of construction services to grow in 2018 and beyond.
While this outlook is great for industry leaders, there’s a few obstacles they must address before they can fully celebrate their expected growth. One of the most widely recognized issues is the current labor shortage and the widening skills and leadership gap.
Many of the baby boomers who currently hold executive-level positions in the construction industry are moving towards retirement, and at the same time, a low number of younger workers are entering the construction industry.
In fact, in a 2017 survey, reports found that only 3% of 18-25 year olds stated they were interested in entering the construction industry. Needless to say, this demographic of young workers has a lacking presence in the industry.
The Future of Construction Relies On the Younger Workforce
What these findings illustrate is that the construction industry needs to ramp up the efforts of attracting younger generations to construction careers. As a significant demographic of the current workforce is going to be of retirement-age soon, the labor shortage will only continue unless industry leaders can pique the interest of the younger workforce.
The leadership gap goes hand in hand with the labor shortage. If there is a wide enough gap between entry-level workers and those in leadership positions, and if there is a general lack of young workers entering the industry at all, there won’t be an adequate amount of talent to take over at the executive level once the retirees leave the industry.
Understand What Millennials Value In Careers
The above statistics may seem a bit bleak, but there are ways to make the industry more appealing to millennials. It starts with understanding what this demographic values in careers so that industry leaders can better market and shape the field to attract the younger workforce.
Here are a few things to make note of:
Income and benefits. No matter the generation, pay and benefits matter to everyone. When choosing a career, everyone wants to know that their basic needs will be covered, and they’ll have a comfortable amount left over to enjoy life a little bit. On top of this, the growing conversation about affordable health care makes benefits an important topic of conversation.
Flexibility and work-life balance. One of the most reported findings in workplace surveys involving millennials is that workplace flexibility is hugely important to them. This generation finds work-life balance to be one of the most crucial factors when choosing a career path, often valuing it over compensation. While the construction industry is largely dependent on physical presence, there are ways to create more flexibility. This can include allowing employees to work from home or work flexible hours when applicable, working to better accommodate child-care needs, crafting a positive, supportive company culture, offering paid vacation and personal days, and creating a stable, consistent schedule (so employees can better plan for recreation).
Ability to grow, learn, and engage. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study on what millennials want from a job and found that a few of the most noteworthy factors were opportunities for growth, quality of management, and the ability to be interested and engaged in what they were doing. Factoring in this information, it’s important to advertise jobs in a manner that showcases advancement and continued education are possible.
Millennials have grown up in the age of technology, and as such, they have also become dependent on it. They want to use the tools that will make them the most efficient at their jobs, and because of this, having access to modern technology in the workplace is something that matters quite a bit to them. As construction leaders start seriously embracing technology, this will help the industry appeal to generations who won’t consider a career without it.
Dismantle Common Beliefs About the Construction Industry
The study mentioned above stated that only 3% of young adults surveyed reported any interest in the construction industry. That same survey also reported that many of the participants didn’t want to consider the industry because they wanted a less physically demanding job, and they were also concerned about how hard construction work is.
These ideas reflect some of the largest myths about the construction industry. While a large part of the trade is labor-intensive, there are also many job opportunities that require college degrees and end up being mostly office-based.
Industry leaders need to work on changing public perception by showing younger workers that the makeup of certain executive construction jobs, such as architects, city planners, engineers, and project managers, can greatly differ from the preconceived notions they have of construction careers.
Entry-level jobs also have ample room for career satisfaction and advancement. Many construction laborers build the infrastructure that makes the world go round while utilizing cutting edge tools and equipment. Additionally, many entry-level workers go on to hold higher positions and become construction supervisors or managers.
Another common concern is safety. While it’s no secret that the industry can be more dangerous that other desk-based careers, advancements in technology have come a long way in keeping workers safe. Additionally, most firms take the most proactive approaches, adhere to strict protocols, and require extensive training to keep workplace accidents at bay.
To attract millennials to the industry, it’s important for industry leaders to regularly participate in conversations and utilize public outreach to help dismantle these generalizations.
Develop Strategies to Appeal to Young Workers Selecting Career Paths
One of the best ways to appeal to younger generations is to start generating interest from an early age. Work with high schools and universities to show students that construction is a viable, secure career option. Informing high schoolers that apprenticeships and trade schools can lead to financially sound careers will help showcase that taking out loans on a four-year college isn’t the only choice.
For those students who are planning on going to college or who already are attending, talk with them about pursuing degrees that could relate to executive construction careers, such as degrees in architecture, business management, engineering, etc.
By taking the time to acknowledge what the younger workforce expects and wants out of a career, as well as what concerns and beliefs they currently hold about careers in construction, industry leaders can work to reshape the world of construction to better appeal to younger generations. The change is necessary, as the future relies on them taking over.