5 Creative Ways for Firms to Tackle the Construction Labor Shortage

Story by Gemma Beasley / August 14, 2023

Across America, once-sleepy states are transforming through rapid population growth, business investment, and major development projects. An economic resurgence has kicked the construction industry into overdrive. Billions are being poured into building the infrastructure, housing, offices, factories, and amenities needed to accommodate this expansion.

Major companies are relocating operations drawn by tax incentives, affordable land, and favorable business climates. Large mixed-use developments, sports stadiums, and urban revitalization initiatives are also driving major construction spending. All of this activity has created a surge in demand for skilled construction workers. However, contractors and developers are struggling to find qualified local talent to fill critical trades roles. With an aging workforce and lack of new entrants, construction firms are facing acute labor shortages. This tight talent market threatens to slow down construction in these thriving states.

Developing homegrown talent is essential to sustain the current levels of growth. That’s why it’s critically important now, more than ever, to pioneer proactive initiatives that rapidly develop skilled local construction workers. Here are just a few ways this can be done.

1.   Helping Heroes Transition to Construction Careers

America’s veterans are perfectly placed to help rebuild the nation, one construction project at a time. The teamwork, discipline, and technical expertise honed through military service makes veterans a valuable addition to construction crews. States are tapping into large veteran populations as an untapped talent pool to help meet hiring needs, with industry associations, technical colleges, and worker retraining programs collaborating to actively recruit veterans.

Bridge training programs help translate the skills learned in military roles like engineering, equipment operation, logistics, and project management into civilian construction jobs. Accelerated certification courses build on veterans’ hands-on experience with more trade-specific training, with some states providing financial assistance for veteran students in these programs.

Construction provides a path to stable civilian careers for veterans of all ages. The technical skills, work ethic, and maturity veterans gain from military service allows them to excel in construction roles of all types, provided they’re given the right transitional support.

2.   Cultivating Skills Through Work-Based Learning

For companies hiring entry-level roles, robust apprenticeship programs allow construction firms to train new recruits on the job site while offsetting costs. States offer tax credits for each apprentice as well as grants that fund their classroom education. This earn-as-you-learn model provides apprentices access to paid employment and mentors while attaining certification.

Construction companies benefit by molding apprentices to integrate into their unique processes and standards, creating a pipeline of tailored talent. Associations like the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) establish national guidelines and accreditation for standardized trades education across the country.

Some states also boost apprenticeship participation by setting mandates for certain public projects. For example, South Carolina requires at least 10% of labor hours be completed by apprentices to qualify for economic development incentives. Such requirements on taxpayer-funded construction projects helps provide on-ramp opportunities for workers gaining experience. Though mandates are sometimes controversial, data shows requiring apprentice participation has increased their training and hiring in states adopting such policies.

3.   Building Future Pipelines Through Youth Programs

Some construction firms are inspiring the next generation by giving high school students a glimpse into the industry through hands-on training and paid internship opportunities. These career days, site tours, demo projects, and paid internships aim to capture young imaginations and debunk misperceptions by showcasing construction as a pathway to a skilled, technical and professional career. Some high schools are also bringing back traditional trades education programs in partnership with local builders.

Constructing mini projects gives students hands-on experience with tools and processes, while paid summer internships offer professional experience and income. Scholarships, cooperative education credits, and direct job opportunities post-graduation are extended to students in a bid to meet the talent demands of the future.

By engaging young people early on, firms can nurture the next generation of construction workers and ensure a steady pipeline of qualified talent.

4.   Unlocking Decades of Know-How from Exiting Workers

Before riding off into the sunset, seasoned construction workers have decades of insights to pass down. Forward-thinking companies are finding ways to transfer this knowledge to the next generation so it doesn’t get lost forever.

Some offer bonuses and incentive programs to encourage near-retirees to become trainers, mentors, consultants, or part-time foremen focused on teaching. This approach can pass on valuable expertise to newcomers.

Experienced workers provide patience and perspective for mentoring youth. They can also validate construction as a viable, rewarding career path from personal experience. Retaining and respecting veteran workers is key to bridging generational divides and supporting new hires. With innovation and collaboration between industry, education, and policy leaders – states experiencing construction booms can cultivate new generations of skilled tradespeople to meet labor demands and power ongoing growth.

5.   Fast Tracked Training for In-Demand Trades

The chance to earn while you learn has proven popular throughout the course of history, and now it’s laying the foundation for construction’s future too. Apprenticeships enable newcomers to gain skills onsite, while companies can nurture talent according to their specific needs and workforce planning requirements.

Technical colleges are creating accelerated construction training programs focused on the most in-demand trades, including electrical, plumbing, HVAC, carpentry, and masonry. These short-term courses, often 12 weeks or less, provide intense hands-on training to reskill workers from declining industries. For example, a displaced factory worker could rapidly gain skills like welding, pipefitting, or heavy equipment operation needed for construction. The condensed curriculum focuses only on the core competencies required for key trades – which can shave months or years off traditional construction degrees.

Some states have set aside funds to subsidize tuition and fees for these targeted programs to maximize access. The condensed and affordable training allows non-traditional candidates to begin new careers in construction, paving the way for a brighter future. Critically, these accelerated programs expand the construction labor pool with freshly trained workers right when we need it the most.

Call in the Construction Workforce Experts

Meeting the demands of today’s construction boom requires creative workforce development. As industry specialists, we understand these labor challenges firsthand. Our passion is helping construction and real estate firms build for the future.

For over a decade, we’ve connected clients to top talent in project management, site supervision, estimating, pre-construction, development, and more. We recognize the need to cultivate new pools of skilled trades workers, which is why we’re committed to collaborating across the industry on solutions like the ones outlined here.

But don’t just take our word for it. Contact us today and let’s explore how we can meet your immediate hiring needs while also investing in the construction workforce of tomorrow. The challenge may be great, but together, we can build something incredible.


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