Bringing to light a great opportunity for construction training, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk released a report this week that indicates that 70% of contractors report having difficulty filling hourly craft positions that represent the bulk of the construction workforce.
Why the Labor Shortage Has Been a Construction Industry Problem for Several Years
For most GCs, this does not come as a surprise. We’ve been in a building boom since the construction industry rebounded after the recession, and labor shortages have been among the top concerns of construction firm managers for the last several years.
AGC’s report backs this up, showing that demand increased significantly from July 2016 to July 2017, with construction employment expanding in 258 of the 358 metro areas the association tracks.
Labor shortfall will reduce the number of projects firms can bid on
"In the short-term, fewer firms will be able to bid on construction projects if they are concerned they will not have enough workers to meet demand. Over the long-term, either construction firms will find a way to do more with fewer workers or public officials will take steps to encourage more people to pursue careers in construction.”
-- Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the AGC
Coinciding with the increased demand for construction services is the reality that Millennials are not entering the construction industry in enough numbers to sustain it, let alone meet intense demand. One of the most cited – and most alarming – reasons for this is that Millennials are just not interested in working in construction.
This is a problem that will get even bigger with time because every industry needs the younger population to enter it in order to sustain it. Further exacerbating this problem is that Boomers are retiring, and taking their institutional knowledge with them.
What Construction Firms Can Do to Combat the Labor Shortfall
Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this problem. The AGC report itself hints at a few ways construction firms are already combating the labor shortage:
- Making a special effort to recruit and retain veterans (79%); women (70%) and African Americans (64%).
- Conducting more in-house training (46%).
- Embracing new construction technology, including increasing their use of labor-saving equipment (22%), using offsite prefabrication (11%), and using Building Information Modeling (BIM) (7%).
Use Construction Training Techniques Like Reverse-Mentoring
That nearly half of construction firms are conducting more in-house training is a good sign.
To help attract and train Millennials and prevent Boomer brain drain, firms can encourage reverse-mentoring or apprenticeship, where Millennials impart their tech savvy to Boomers, and Boomers can impart their career experience to Millennials, along with the ways and joys of working with their hands to create in the real world.
Embrace Construction Technology and Techniques that can help with labor shortage
Embracing new construction technology can and should also play a large role in combating the labor shortage. One of the great benefits of using cloud-based construction software, in particular, is that the use of the most precious resource, time, is far more productive.
In fact, using cloud-based construction software saves 9 hours per week according to research. Unsurprisingly, 68% of contractors who used mobile cloud-based technology reported improved productivity according to McGraw-Hill’s 2013 study, Information Mobility SmartMarket report.
Construction technology will help alleviate labor drought
“The ongoing labor drought continues to put pressure on the already high-risk, low-margin construction industry. As labor challenges continue to grow, technology will play an increasingly important role supporting the existing workforce while inspiring the next generation of industry professionals.”
-- Sarah Hodges, Director, Construction Business Line, Autodesk
Emerging technologies can make your understaffed team accomplish more
In addition to saving time, emerging construction technology tools and techniques can also help your team accomplish more with less personnel -- effectively "punching above your weight-class". One such approach is using drones for construction.
Drones can be used in a variety of ways to economize time and personnel in construction projects. IMCO Construction, for example, used them to quickly and accurately carry out the surveying work of the build site that would typically be conducted by several team members, they estimated, over a much longer period of time than the drone.
IMCO also used drones to log and track all materials coming and going from the job site. Using prefabrication techniques to precut steel beams to assemble them onsite also helped teams save time and space. These techniques and more enabled IMCO to deliver their water treatment plant project 10 months ahead of schedule.
This is just one example of an emerging technology that can help your understaffed team do the work of more, with others available now and more to come as technology evolves.
The shortfall of qualified craft workers to meet demand is a major problem for the construction industry, and which will only get bigger with time. The industry will need to make some changes to entice and retain members of the tech-savvy Millennial generation, as much to sustain itself as to meet increasing demand. Embracing time-saving and productivity-enhancing technologies will also have to play a larger role in construction operations as firms find themselves with fewer people willing and able to perform manual labor.
Learn more about how construction technology can help your understaffed team accomplish more!
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