Supply chain issues and skilled labor unavailability are suppressing the demand-driven residential construction boom. Shortages are overwhelmingly reported for workers in all types of jobs, the worst being in framing crews, and rough and finish carpenters. But labor shortages in the manufacturing sector are also contributing to the shortage of the needed construction materials and equipment.
Why the shortage?
Among the factors economists and business leaders identified as culpable for the current labor shortages are:
- The COVID shutdowns and government unemployment/stimulus payments have given many people a sequestered opportunity to hit “pause” and rethink their futures.
- Large blocks of aging skilled workers are retiring.
- A lack of basic skills training for non-college-bound students, poor employability skills (attendance, timeliness, etc.), and the inability to work well in a team environment.
- A distinct aversion to construction and manufacturing environments among the younger generation, which they tend to perceive as rough, low-wage, low-prestige and involving potentially dangerous work.
8 Tips to Help
Industry and business consultants offer the following suggestions:
- Plan your recruiting effort as a key ongoing company function. Involve employees in recruiting and onboarding. Existing employees can help attract top talent by showing potential hires they also could be happy at your business. Use incentive rewards like gift cards, cash bonuses or extra time off to encourage them to help attract top talent through referrals.
- Partner with community colleges and universities, allied nonprofits and other organizations. Connect with candidates by attending job fairs, sponsoring events and holding open-house days. Focus on hiring veteran military talent, which is likely to come with needed employability skills. A good example is Manufacturing Day, an initiative of the Manufacturing Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers. Held every October to show students, parents and the public what modern manufacturing is all about, it offers participants a context for conducting shop floor tours, presentations at schools, virtual events or other creative ways to showcase modern manufacturing and dispel “sweatshop” myths.
- Raise pay and/or increase benefits. More money, in the form of signing bonuses or higher entry-level pay, or special benefits, such as covering college tuition, can effectively draw more applicants. Get creative with your total compensation package to shift dollars toward the most important benefits to your employees and candidates. This might be salary, bonuses or low-cost health insurance. Offering the commonly suggested work-from-home approach, more time off or flex-time are great low- or no-cost options as well; however, these may not be feasible in construction and manufacturing sectors where demand backlogs and coordinated team activities are common.
- Sell your company culture. Recruiting is becoming more like marketing. Adopt brand thinking to position your company among competitors for the target talent pool. Know the company’s mission and values and identify the most important skills and values you need. Pare these attributes down to the list of attributes you are willing to pay for, whether with money or intangibles. Then fill positions around those by giving people reasons to be proud to work for you, not just as a means to a paycheck.
- Invest in scholarship, apprenticeship and internship programs. Be willing to invest in teaching raw young recruits and re-training those from other fields. Offer apprenticeships and/or internships that offer education they cannot get in school. Explore trade associations that offer professional certifications like the FGIA InstallationMasters Program.
- Build an employee-focused culture. Show your appreciation for your workers through employee-recognition programs, performance bonuses and comfortable work environments. Consider offering extracurricular group activities like yoga classes, friendly athletic competitions and regular team-building activities.
- Assist during the interview process. Employers should explain to candidates what the interview process entails and give them tips to prepare. Provide clear, concise job descriptions free of company jargon that offer clear explanations of the job and its importance to what the company does.
- Connect online. Social media is a good place for potential younger employees to search and to be found. It’s also a good platform to share information about the company. Online learning programs can also be used to develop skills and career pathways.
What some have termed “the fourth industrial revolution” is rapidly changing our world. New advanced manufacturing technologies bring about whole new careers, requiring a skilled workforce interested in pursuing them. The challenge is to convince job candidates that there is a place for everyone in manufacturing and construction.