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Building the Future of Labor: Partnership is Key

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Building the Future of Labor

In 2016, economists and labor experts anticipated the Labor Shortage crisis to plateau as demand for new construction was predicted to slow down. Instead, after a record-breaking 2016 in the Industry, the demand for laborers and skilled workers in 2017 has proven to be even higher, leaving many companies scrambling to find qualified workers. TSCTA’s series on tackling the Labor Shortage crisis started out by dispelling myths and misconceptions about the Industry and continues with a focus on strategic partnerships and exploring new ways to recruit the next generation of workers.

One of the biggest issues the industry faces is the aging-out of the existing labor pool. It’s an issue that’s slowly crept up over the last decade but has really been unavoidable in the years after the 2008-2009 financial crisis. In a study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, between April 2006 and January 2011, the Construction Industry lost approximately 2.3 million jobs. This catastrophic loss of jobs, nearly 40% of all available jobs, hit carpenters, laborers, and equipment operators the hardest. While the Industry and the economy as a whole have since bounced back, the Construction Industry has struggled to fill many of these crucial positions only managing to reclaim 1 million formerly displaced workers.

So, what happened?

The Census’ report found that of the 2.3 million jobs lost, 40% of these displaced workers had either been rehired or found other employment within the Industry, 33% transitioned out of the trades, and 25% never returned to the job market having aged-out or elected not to return for other reasons. Making matters worse, the report indicates that many companies stopped hiring younger workers despite an overall improvement in the economy.

Between 2000 and 2011, the hiring of workers aged 19-24 lagged in construction and the trades making up only 10% of all new hires while other industries consistently hired prime-aged workers at a rate of 15%. By contrast, new hires aged 45-55 in the Construction Industry increased to a record high of 35% leaving many companies in a loop of trying to find more workers from a diminishing pool of talent. The disproportionate rate of new hires among these two age groups creates a shaky foundation for the Industry’s future but also presents an opportunity for firms willing to recruit outside of the box.

Building the Future

This Industry was built on partnerships and collaboration; in order to ensure the future of labor, that’s exactly where our focus will have to return. One of the crucial steps in building the future of the labor force is to partner with schools and universities to increase interest and relevant skill sets. By introducing internships, externships, and work-study programs, students are exposed to a variety of career paths available to them while picking up the necessary skills needed to not only get started but to thrive.

A recent study by Home Advisor echoes the need for reaching out to younger, unskilled laborers. Of those surveyed, 61% agree that there is a lack of exposure to skilled labor professions for younger generations. Many of those surveyed expressed the need for additional resources including trade schooling, mentorships, and active involvement with trade associations. Trade advocacy groups have begun taking the lead and lobbying local and federal governments for assistance in creating programs that can help develop new talent pools and increase young workers’ access to the Industry.

Locally, there are 18 colleges and universities offering both certificate programs and degrees in Construction. By partnering with a school, companies can provide the vital hands-on training in exchange for access to a new pool of potential workers and leaders. This kind of partnership helps educational institutions provide a better foundation of teachable skills that employers are looking for. Internship programs are another strategy that some companies have employed to bring in fresh talent. Boston-based, Suffolk Construction, uses their internship program to recruit highly educated and motivated prospects while exposing students to the many possible jobs opportunities within the Industry. From their internship program, Suffolk has reported that working in different positions have influenced students’ opinions often times prompting them to select career paths involving field work over desk jobs.

Related Courses: 10HR OSHA Construction Safety & Health

The Census noted that despite the low numbers of 19-24-year-olds in construction, workers within this age group weren’t entering the labor market later but instead finding opportunities in other industries. Exposing young people to a full gamut of opportunities that the Industry offers is key to turning these numbers around. Becoming involved with our neighboring educations institutions, even at the high school level, will allow the Industry to help shape the next generation of workers. Ultimately, the partnerships we build today will be the life blood of our Industry tomorrow.