Experiencing the Construction Worker Shortage?

Dive deeper into our five solutions for builders who are looking to find skilled tradespeople during a hiring crisis.

February 23, 2021
Skilled tradesman carrying metal beam

5 Solutions for Finding Skilled Tradespeople During a Hiring Crisis

While Americans continue to file for unemployment and industries continue to be flattened by the pandemic, the construction industry has had to withstand these challenges as well as some of its own.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report released January 8, construction added 51,000 jobs in December alone. The BLS also reports that overall employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 5 percent through 2029—faster than the average for all occupations.

For most industries, this would be good news, but for the construction industry, it presents a problem. While there’s an abundance of construction projects and, therefore, construction jobs, finding skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen to fill them is proving difficult. Without these workers, builders can’t take on more projects or, worse yet, any projects. The construction worker shortage also means projects face significant delays, which are expensive to say the least.

So, what’s causing the construction worker shortage? First, there’s that increase in the number of construction projects starting. Also contributing to the shortage is that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) working in the construction industry are retiring at a record pace. With their level of expertise and experience, their departure leaves a gaping hole. Unfortunately, the number of younger people entering the workforce is smaller—and many of those hold college degrees and have little interest in the skilled trades.

“There’s an impression that construction careers are like a job of last resort, and not a rewarding kind of middle-class career,” Brian Turmail, vice president of strategic initiatives and public affairs at Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), told Bloomberg. “Yet in many respects, they are a lot more rewarding than sitting in some kind of fluorescent-lit cube farm.”

Boosting the number of skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen in the future may require rebranding the entire construction industry. While changing perceptions about the skilled trades will take time, doing so is crucial to alleviate the construction worker shortage—now and in the future.

What Are the Consequences of the Construction Worker Shortage?

For the foreseeable future, the construction worker shortage will continue to challenge companies to find construction workers and skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen.

According to a report released in early February by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, most contractors (83%) continue to report moderate to high levels of difficulty in finding skilled workers. The report also found that 87% of contractors express a moderate to high degree of concern about workers having adequate skill levels, of which 90% say it will stay the same or get worse in the next six months.

This outlook matters because it reinforces the challenges facing companies due to the construction worker shortage. To meet project demand without the proper workforce, they will likely have to force skilled workers to work more, raising costs and potentially leading to worker burnout and possibly even injuries. Projects may be delayed while others could be rejected entirely as companies struggle to meet deadlines. Ultimately, the shortage of skilled tradespeople will lead to lost revenue, too.

Despite this gloomy forecast, the future for construction companies can be brighter as long as the industry works toward finding solutions to the construction worker shortage. With more and more people moving to urban areas, construction projects will continue to grow along with opportunities for skilled tradespeople.

What Can Builders Do to Find Construction Workers?

Stemming the construction worker shortage will take a concerted effort within the industry—and beyond. Here are five steps construction leaders can start taking now to attract skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen:

  • Outreach: Not long ago, vocational programs like shop classes were commonplace in schools across the United States. But with an emphasis on raising standardized test scores, among other reasons, many schools shifted their focus. In 2021, one would be hard-pressed to find skilled trades being offered alongside their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) counterparts. Hiring construction workers for the future starts now with outreach to middle and high school students to get them interested in the trades. How will they find out about the lucrative jobs and creative opportunities that await them? Through you. Make an appointment now with your local school district leaders or middle and high school counselors about how best to educate students about the benefits of working in the construction industry.
  • Mentor: A lot of young people understand the substantial investment it takes to attend college and are worried about the significant amount of debt they will be left with upon graduation. Starting an apprenticeship program or offering internships allows potential employees an inside look at the rewarding career opportunities the construction industry offers. While they gain firsthand experience, you’ll create a pipeline of future skilled tradespeople. Eventually, you won’t need to find construction workers because they will have already found you.
  • Upskill: Instead of hiring construction workers, look to your current workforce. Do you have helpers, for example, who are doing a great job but lack the skills you need? Invest in upskilling your employees. Reward those who commit to upskilling by increasing their base pay and offering bonuses. Another byproduct of upskilling: You’ll increase employee morale.
  • Establish an employee referral program: Set up an employee program that incentivizes your current staff to find construction workers and skilled tradespeople. Experienced employees might know other carpenters, solar installers, electricians or have connections with people who work in the skilled trades. Not only will you find the people you need, but it’s a great way to get your employees more involved and, again, boost morale.
  • Partner with a staffing provider: The day-in-and-day-out operations of a construction company are overwhelming even without the construction worker shortage. To help ease the stress, consider partnering with a staffing provider like PeopleReady Skilled Trades. A staffing provider can take the heavy lifting off your shoulders when it comes to hiring construction workers by connecting you with skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen, from experienced carpenters to plumbers and more. With the help of a staffing provider, you can find the talent you need for short and long-term projects and avoid experiencing costly delays.

3 Tips to Rebound Your Workforce Post-COVID-19

Check out this PeopleReady infographic for three quick tips to rebound your workforce post-COVID-19.

January 4, 2021

Everyone has felt the effects of the pandemic—both personally and professionally. With a way out in sight, businesses will soon be looking to rebound their workforce while maintaining control and profitability.

Check out our infographic below for 3 quick tips from PeopleReady Skilled Trades to rebound your workforce post-COVID-19.

post-covid-19

Building Better Mental Health in Construction

Many blue-collar workers pride themselves on being tough, which prevents them from acknowledging their mental health and seeking help.

September 5, 2020

In an industry where mental health issues are particularly acute, construction businesses are under even more pressure to address the challenges of their workforce during these unusual times. Not only are they concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, but they’re also worried about how to support themselves and their families. They have likely seen loved ones faced with job loss, illness, and even death. They may be wary about coming to work, fearing an increased risk of infection.

Many blue-collar workers pride themselves on being tough, which prevents them from acknowledging their mental health and seeking help. Seasonal unemployment, long hours and exhaustion can also trigger mental health issues. Depression and anxiety often go undiagnosed and untreated, making the construction industry one of the occupations most at risk for suicide.

The suicide rate has surged 40 percent in the U.S. over less than two decades, with blue-collar workers at a significantly higher risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC analyzed suicide rates by industry and occupational groups by gender using data from the 32 states that participated in the 2016 National Violent Death Reporting system.

  • In 2017, nearly 38,000 people between the ages of 16 and 64 died by suicide in the U.S., according to the CDC. The overall suicide rate rose by 40% from 2000.
  • The total suicide rate among all men was 27.4 individuals per 100,000 people, but the rate among those in the construction field was 49.4 per 100,000.
  • For women, the suicide rate for the total population studied was 7.7 per 100,000 individuals. The suicide rate for women in construction, however, was 25.5 per 100,000 individuals—the highest among any profession.

Construction workers are exposed to a number of risks by the nature of their job. Adding in outside health risks may lead to work-related injuries. A study published recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that six health risk behaviors were more common in the construction industry, which PeopleReady shares below.

  • Smoking
  • Smokeless tobacco use
  • Binge drinking
  • No leisure-time physical activity
  • Not always using a seatbelt
  • Getting less than seven hours of sleep a day

Addressing the Workforce Shortage in the Construction Industry

Temporary craftspeople can help with new construction builds, clean-up and sanitizing efforts, maintenance tasks, and other valuable projects so that your business stays on track.

September 2, 2020
construction industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the construction industry and caused many businesses to reevaluate the way they conduct projects and how they manage their staff. New safety procedures were implemented on job sites, including proper social distancing and the increased use of personal protective equipment. During this unprecedented experience, businesses are constantly adapting to keep people healthy and projects moving forward.

Workforce Shortages Reaching a Critical Point

That may prove to be an even more daunting challenge given the workforce shortage that has plagued the construction industry for years. In July 2018, there were 7.2 million jobs in construction industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Through 2026, BLS projects faster-than-average employment growth. 

The pandemic has outlined just how valuable the construction industry is to the future of our country. But even now, workforce shortages remain one of the single greatest threats to its success. Eighty percent of contractors have trouble finding talent to fill the craft positions that represent the majority of the industry’s workforce, according to an industry-wide study the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America conducted with Autodesk.

Without a strong workforce, companies are unable to complete projects in a timely fashion. The U.S. has experienced a skilled-trades talent gap accelerated by retirement, staff turnover and a reduced focus on trade education in high school. About half of America’s skilled trade employees are approaching retirement age, according to the Manhattan Institute. And they aren’t being replaced quickly as they are leaving the field: An estimated 2.4 million jobs may be unfilled by 2028.

In a study performed by Marcum’s national Construction Services group:

  • 41% of pre-pandemic respondents chose “securing skilled labor” as the No. 1 threat to their businesses.
  • 67% of post-pandemic respondents projected either the same or higher backlogs.

Staffing Solutions for Your Construction Business

During the Great Recession of 2008–09, construction businesses often furloughed or laid off workers and eliminated apprenticeship programs that would have encouraged long-term careers in the industry. Many current or potential employees left the field and never returned.

Workforce shortages that make construction projects more costly and slower to build run the risk of undermining a business’s success. To combat these workforce shortages, construction businesses can leverage temporary craftspeople to supplement their critical workforce needs as they contemplate their long-term staffing strategy.

Using temporary craftspeople solves three of the most important initiatives for today’s construction businesses:

  1. Meeting deadlines: Especially in a time of unprecedented delays and disruptions, construction businesses that fail to act quickly can be at a disadvantage. Temporary craftspeople make it easy to scale your workforce and add talent on an as-needed basis to improve productivity and get projects done. If the craftsperson turns out to be a good fit, businesses may even consider hiring them on a permanent basis.
  2. Reducing stress: According to the ADP Workforce Vitality Index report, the construction industry has an average turnover rate of 58.4 percent. The main reason why employees leave? Feeling overworked. The problem has been compounded by COVID-19, which has heightened their concerns about health and wellbeing on the jobsite and at home. By supplementing your full-time workforce with temporary craftspeople, your business is better positioned to maintain a safe and healthy working environment while providing permanent crew members the extra help they need.
  3. Performing specialized tasks: In some cases, you may need additional support from those who have specific experience or expertise to complete projects. Temporary craftspeople can bring specialized skill sets that your full-time staff may not be able to provide. Hiring short-term employees who own the training or technical skills you need can fill important gaps in your workforce and help you capitalize on new opportunities.

Temporary craftspeople can help with new construction builds, clean-up and sanitizing efforts, maintenance tasks, and other valuable projects so that your business stays on track—providing some stability in a time of uncertainty.

Construction businesses can reduce the time and costs related to recruiting, screening and hiring new employees by partnering with a staffing agency. For convenient access to a skilled workforce ready to fill open positions and shifts quickly, contact PeopleReady Skilled Trades today.

Building Up Women in Construction

What does today’s landscape look like for women in construction?
Take a look at our infographic:

February 12, 2020

women in construction

Out of over 10 million construction workers in the United States, less than one million are female—meaning that on the average job site, there is approximately 1 woman to every 10 men.

However, with a much-needed push for diversity and inclusion across all industries, construction hopes it will see more benefits of women stepping into the trade. A recent study by McKinsey shows that companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity were 35 percent more likely to outperform other companies.  Women are making a slow and steady rise in the labor aspect of construction, but see great success as they step into a variety of management roles.

Construction currently has one of the highest job placement rates and starting salaries, making it an ideal career choice for women interested in a job path with upward mobility, job security, and strong financial incentive. Not all women who end up in construction started there, either. Get a Grip Inc. founder, Sharon Dillard, segued into kitchen and bathroom resurfacing after a career in fashion using the same skills that served her in previous roles. Ciara Seger, Project Superintendent for a leading contract and construction company and features in Forbes and Procore, says “There has never been a better time to be a woman in construction.” Plentiful jobs? Well-paying positions? Numerous opportunities for advancement and growth? We’re in agreement.

So what does today’s landscape look like for women in construction?

Take a look at our infographic:

women in construction, infographic

Why the Skilled Trades Matter

There are many reasons why skilled trades is seeing a decline in qualified tradespeople. See how some organizations are addressing the issue.

July 12, 2018

People holding career, technical, and skilled trade educations have proven more likely to be employed than those with academic credentials, reports the U.S. Department of Education. Not only were employment rates higher, skilled trades workers were considerably more likely to operate within their fields of study.

Why, then, is there such a scarcity of skilled trades labor across the industries? There are numerous hypotheses and reasons as to why the U.S. is seeing such a decline in skilled trade workers.  The decades-long push toward high school graduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees over vocational programs, the lack of information around skilled labor education along with the certification costs that many require, and battling an image problem are all seen to play a part in the mass exodus from vocational education across the country.

Various reports reveal high percentages of senior executives and employers listed lack of technical skills as a reason for struggling to fill important skilled trade positions. Companies across the board are experiencing the difficulty in hiring and retaining talent, proving to be a long lasting concern. To fill the skilled trade worker pool, something has to change. What can we do to shift perception?

Money Talks

Many workers in the skilled trades are earning average or above average wages, even compared to their diploma-holding counterparts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ estimates, some of the top paying roles are for construction managers, Rotary Drill Operator for the Oil and Gas Industry, and Boilermakers. More candid conversation surrounding the earning capabilities of those in the skilled trades could make a noticeable difference in interest levels of people preparing to enter the workforce.

Discuss Demand

Jobs in technology are flourishing as the world leans heavily into the digital space, but those graduating with a $250,000 degree in arts history or gender studies may find it more difficult to find jobs in today’s market. Useful skills necessary for the day-to-day functions of society— such as nursing, computer sciences, and construction—are in dire need. They also cost must less to gain training and education in the long term.

More Mentorship

Inadequate access to training resources is another key issue, as well as lack of proper mentorship and apprenticeship. With much of the training in skilled trades proving to be as rigorous as an academic education, it’s vital for young workers or those interested in skilled labor to feel supported. Industry stakeholders are telling established skilled trade professionals to invest in the success of their younger counterparts. Whether through one-on-one mentorship, support of group training programs, or offering structured apprenticeship, there is a widespread call for action to build up the reputation of skilled labor and the benefits of a career in a skilled trade.

Are You Prepared for a Shortage of Skilled Tradespeople?

Hiring skilled tradespeople is about to get more difficult with a worker shortage. These tips will help you staff skilled workers and win the talent competition.

April 29, 2018
skilled trades, peopleready

Our tradesmen and tradeswomen are the reason we come in to our desks, our offices, and our branches each and every day. For PeopleReady Skilled Trades, we know how important it is to demonstrate our appreciation for our teammates. Most recently, we’ve done this through our Respect the Craft program.

What is Respect the Craft?

Designed to reward some of our hardest-working team members, the program enters workers who meet attendance guidelines into a monthly drawing for a grand prize. Those who have worked a full week without tardiness or no-shows have the opportunity to win a big screen TV and the entire team is treated to lunch on site.

The effects of the Respect the Craft program have been immediate and palpable. We’ve seen our associates get excited about the contest and work diligently to qualify. Not only has attendance improved, but morale has experienced a large uptick. Our Skilled Trades customers are also joining in on the action, helping to award the grand prize and contributing to make associates truly feel integrated into each team.

The Respect the Craft program is only one of the ways that we support our workers; we focus on safety at all times, helping our associates be some of the safest on the job. We are also committed to helping our associates develop and grow their skill sets, making sure we pair them with the right customer so they may continue to learn in environments that fit them.

We understand that the skilled trades ache for new talent as the worker pool shrinks, but the bottom line is that with PeopleReady Skilled Trades, we don’t stop. We don’t stop supporting our associates or our customers. In the end, everyone wins.

Contact PeopleReady Skilled Trades help you build your skilled trades team.

PeopleReady Skilled Trades is a specialized division of PeopleReady, a TrueBlue company (NYSE: TBI). Since 1987, we have connected tradespeople and work across a wide range of trades, including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, welding, solar installations and more. Whether you need a single tradesperson or require a coordinated effort to dispatch skilled workers across multiple projects, we ensure you have the right people with the right tools, on-site and on time.