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.

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

Case Study: Success in Construction Staffing

See why a large enterprise construction company rated PeopleReady Skilled Trades five stars for their staffing solutions.

April 18, 2019

PeopleReady Skilled Trades is no stranger to helping organizations simplify their staffing process, leading to cost and time savings, and one customer recently experienced these benefits firsthand. When a large enterprise construction company faced difficulties finding the skilled trades workers needed to meet their goals, they realized it was time to find a staffing partner.

Prior to using the staffing services of PeopleReady Skilled Trades, the company noticed low retention rates and excess time and money spent on hiring. Upon discovering the nationwide footprint of PeopleReady Skilled Trades bolstered by supportive, responsive local service representatives, they decided to turn to the PeopleReady Skilled Trades division to find a dedicated team.

To complete their projects, the company required highly skilled and trained tradespeople. These workers needed deep knowledge in each of their roles, ensuring that every aspect of the project was completed with dexterity and expertise. PeopleReady Skilled Trades provided workers that met requirements quickly. The company deemed the workers as “extremely qualified” in their craft and “significantly better” than previous performers, as they were properly trained and prepared and ready to get started immediately.

Since onboarding members from PeopleReady Skilled Trades, the company has seen operational improvements such as higher worker retention rate, saving time and money, and the ability to meet project deadlines. When asking for feedback on the provided services, the company rates PeopleReady Skilled Trades “best in class” for worker reliability and overall customer support.

Explore how PeopleReady Skilled Trades can help support your needs with the five-star workers and service your job site demands.

6 Tips to Avoid Hazards on Construction Sites

March 2, 2018

You’re an experienced construction worker. You have your own PPE, steel toed boots for all weather occasions and keep your eyes open for physical safety hazards: falls, scaffold collapse, repetitive motion injuries and more. 

But there are also health hazards you may overlook. Here are 6 things to keep in mind to make sure you stay in tip-top shape. 

Noise Exposure

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), noise-related hearing loss has been listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States for more than 25 years. Exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noisy area. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Wearing earmuffs or earplugs can protect your hearing.

Silica

Silica is a basic component of sand, quartz and granite rock. Activities such as roof bolting, stonecutting, drilling, brick/block/concrete cutting, asphalt paving, hammering, chipping and sweeping concrete can create an airborne silica exposure hazard. An over exposure to silica results in approximately 300 deaths annually in the construction industry. (www.osha.gov, 2015)

Wood Dust

Breathing wood dust that becomes airborne through sanding and cutting may cause allergic respiratory symptoms, mucosal and non-allergic respiratory symptoms, and cancer. The extent of these hazards and the associated wood types have not been clearly established but safety equipment and reducing exposure are definitely recommended. OSHA has several suggestions for respirators and other work place safety tips to keep you from breathing as much wood dust. 

Asbestos

Breathing asbestos fibers can cause a loss of lung function that often progresses to disability and death. Asbestos can also cause lung cancer and other diseases such as mesothelioma. PeopleReady will not knowingly send you to a job where asbestos is present. If you are on a job where it is found, do not touch it, leave the site and contact your branch manager immediately. Additional information about asbestos is included in your safety handbook and from OSHA. 

Lead

OSHA estimates that approximately 838,000 construction workers may be exposed to various forms of lead in the workplace. Workers are exposed to lead when they are working near the production, use, maintenance, recycling, and disposal of lead material and products. Workers are often exposed during the removal, renovation, or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments. Learn more about how to control your exposure from OSHA. 

Synthetic Mineral Fibers

 Synthetic mineral fibers are made primarily from rock, clay, slag, or glass. These fibers are generally put into three groups into three general groups: fiberglass, mineral wool, and refractory ceramic fibers. There are more than 225,000 workers in the US exposed to synthetic mineral fibers in manufacturing and end-use applications. Learn from OSHA how you can be better prepared for this exposure. 
 
Your safety is very important to us. PeopleReady hopes these tips help keep you healthy and on the job. Have any other health hazards that may be overlooked, even for the most seasoned construction worker? 

5 Essentials for Your First Day Working in Construction

The construction industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the nation and demands more and more workers to complete projects on time and on budget. Are you ready to start your career in construction?

October 15, 2015

The construction industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the nation. That growth demands more and more workers to complete projects on time and on budget. It’s a line of work that can open doors for many opportunities and PeopleReady is the perfect place to get your start.

It’s important to be safe on a construction site and having the right equipment when you arrive on the job is critical. Here are 5 essentials for your first day working construction. If you need any personal protection equipment (PPE) like what’s described here, please ask your branch office. Your safety is important to us and we can secure PPE for you.

Hard Hats

On a construction site, there is the potential for you to be struck by falling objects. Even a small bolt or tool that falls from a short distance above your head can lead to serious injury if appropriate gear is not worn. A standard hard hat will be reinforced on top, have a rain gutter around the sides and be comfortable.

Eye Protection

Most eye injuries can be prevented by wearing appropriate eye protection. Drilling, hammering and brickwork can often release dust or other airborne materials. Strong goggle and face shields protect the eyes and face from medium impacts as well as liquids. Some face shields protect the eyes, head and respiratory system.

Hearing Protection

If you’re working in an environment with continuous noise at levels of 85-90, earmuffs or earplugs can protect your hearing. What you may not realize is how damaging these noises can be to your hearing. This essential gear does not impede speech or any warning signals, but will reduce unwanted noise.

Tough Work Boots

You never know what is lying around a construction jobsite – there could be sharp metal or glass objects, screws, or nails. It’s important to have your feet taken care of in case you fail to see something as you’re walking through the jobsite.

Hand Protection

Safety is a priority for PeopleReady. We want to make sure you have a great work experience working in construction. Have an essential item you’d like to suggest?

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.