The Bureau of Labor Statics has recently reported the lowest unemployment rate in years, but some industries are still facing labor shortages. The construction industry seems to be the hardest hit, as nine out of 10 contractors report that they haven’t been able to find skilled labor for the past year.
Findings from the Q2 2018 USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (Index) show four straight quarters with more than 90% of contractors concerned over labor shortages. Concerns increased quarter-over-quarter, with 47% of respondents expecting problems finding skilled workers to worsen in the next 6 months.
“Contractors’ pipelines for new business are consistently healthy, however, that optimism is challenged by a growing shortage of workers—a trend that’s persisted for more than a year,” said Jennifer Scanlon, president and chief executive officer of USG Corporation. “In order to sustain the strong pipeline of work, it’s important that industry leaders think about process and product innovations that can help complete projects on-time and advance the industry.”
Contractors also face other concerns, not just the inability to find talent. The percentage of contractors concerned about fluctuations in steel prices jumped significantly this quarter. Two-thirds (63%) of contractors identified steel fluctuations as their top material of concern, a sharp increase from the 30% of contractors who expressed concerns in Q2 2017 and the largest fluctuation in contractor sentiment to date. Most (86%) contractors also feel the recently-imposed tariffs will have at least a moderate impact on their business.
“The commercial construction industry is vital to the growth of the U.S. economy. Steel and aluminum tariffs and continued workforce shortages threaten to slow the industry’s growth and job creation,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “We must embrace free enterprise, rather than undermine the competitiveness of American business, as well as invest in a skilled and motivated workforce to ensure our companies and job seekers alike have the platforms to compete on a global scale.”
For recruiters looking to fill construction roles, risk management consultant, Gibson, says to “[b]e proactive with your recruiting, hiring, and workforce management strategies to help combat this issue.” Gibson also offers the following tips to get constructions workers in the door:
- Develop a safety culture. Creating a safety culture that permeates all levels of the organization is a way to fight the problem of accidents with inexperienced workers.
- Implement prehiring assessments. A safety culture starts at the beginning. Take action to make sure your hiring process supports the search for candidates who hold the same beliefs about accident prevention and are open to the extensive training required to successfully perform the job. The interview process should not only look for the abilities in candidates, but also for their attitude, aptitude, and adaptability. Consider what screening tools and skills assessments could be used in the hiring process.
- Improved training and promote knowledge transfer. Regular training is a necessity for your workforce to keep their skills up-to-date and for the assimilation of new workers. It is also important to encourage the transfer of skills and knowledge from your veterans to your new employees. Put them in teams to provide mentor opportunities. Both groups can learn a lot from each other. And the sharing of the intricacies of your company is essential for long-term success.
- Aging workforce strategies. Your veterans are some of your most loyal and experienced employees. Make sure you are being proactive about managing their health and safety in the workplace.
- Support the efforts to increase career and technical education. This could mean getting involved with national organizations as they seek reform and increased vocational education, or even reaching out to a local vocational school.