The ongoing labor shortage among specialty subcontractors and service businesses is no secret. For decades, high school age students have been steered toward four-year universities and colleges for degrees while less and less emphasis was placed on trade schools and apprenticeship programs. The mid-2000s recession rattled the trade industries even more as thousands of skilled workers were laid off and funding for what few trade education programs remained all but dried up.
A decade later, the demand for skilled workers was strong, but the talent pool was lacking. Now, contractors are faced with a new challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic — will they lose more talented workers during a prolonged shutdown or economic downturn?
Many who left the industry in the mid-2000s took positions in other industries, while technology companies exploded on the scene and have lured the lion’s share of young professionals to their ranks.
The construction industry has been pushing efforts to renew trade skill education and training at all levels for years. There is growing appeal to enter skilled-labor careers and high schools are bringing back courses such as shop class and mentoring kids on the benefits of trade-specific schooling.
Still, this is not going to be an overnight fix. Those who have already undertaken the opportunity to pursue a career in HVACR still need time and the right resources to effectively learn the ropes. And now with the current pandemic and economic uncertainty the industry needs to prepare itself not just to weather the current storm, but come out ahead as an appealing option. Maybe this time, tech workers will look to construction jobs if contractors offer the right technologies and opportunities.
Although it won’t be easy, recruiting younger professionals can be the answer for subcontractors and service businesses that struggle to find skilled workers. These five steps are a great place to start.
Younger, tech-savvy professionals want assurances that they’ll be able to use and learn about the latest technological advances in their jobs. Where construction was traditionally seen as an honorable, decent-paying and often exciting trade among earlier generations, the industry today is competing with internet and social media companies, technology providers, arts and entertainment outlets, online retailers and many others that are driven primarily by technology.
Younger professionals don’t want to deal with paper, manual processes, outdated software or spreadsheets. They want to work quickly and efficiently. They want to create, innovate and lead. They want to build careers and grow their skills instead of spending the bulk of their time doing routine tasks that could be addressed with automation.
As a specialty contractor, you should continue investing in modernizing and adopting the latest technologies to attract younger professionals.
Contractors that deploy modern software and technologies realize significantly greater efficiencies, helping achieve more productivity from the skilled workers they already have in their ranks, and subsequently, higher profit margins. At the same time, these modern tools are attractive to tech-driven professionals.
Human resources functions in construction — whether that means a full HR team, a single dedicated HR professional or, often, members of accounting or operations — can use technology to help automate processes and create a streamlined, positive experience for new employees.
Through modern HR management solutions, you can improve HR processes, from recruiting and onboarding to training, uploading HR documents, accessing pay statements and more.
Data can help you understand everyday work challenges and discover ways to make the people who work for you more productive.
Many industries have gone digital, incorporating technology into their day-to-day work. Construction, unfortunately, has lagged in this area. And while many leading contractors are modernizing their operations, far too many still rely on manual processes or outdated technologies. Young workers have come to expect a modern workplace that uses the latest technology.
Cloud-based construction software that connects the office, team and field provides one unified source of data that everyone in the company can access. This prevents errors and reduces wasted time, resulting in significantly greater efficiencies, increased productivity and higher profit margins. These modern solutions also provide a leg up in attracting younger, tech-driven professionals to your workforce.
Provide training and educational opportunities to show potential employees that you want to see them advance in their roles and their careers. Many construction career paths exist, which gives you an opportunity to promote career exploration by providing cross-training for those interested.
Developing leadership programs can help promote this kind of cross-training and motivate employees to master their craft. This will also help ensure that you have capable employees to promote when the time is right.
Will younger professionals see your company as modern, or will they be turned off by old-school methods like pen and paper? It’s a question worth taking seriously. Investing the time to understand their needs and provide a career path, access to technology and the modern processes they expect might just be your answer to overcoming the skilled labor shortage.
Recruiting younger professionals can be the answer to finding skilled workers.
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