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Outsmart the Skilled Labor Shortage

Blog Contributed by MW Industrial

It’s no secret that there’s a skilled labor shortage in the construction industry. And while homebuilders may have gotten hit the hardest after the great recession of 2008, the shortfall of skilled labor can be felt in all sectors, stretching from craftsmen all the way up to leadership.

The numbers are nothing short of staggering. Following the 2008 economic downturn, 1.2 million skilled craftsmen (15%) left the industry. To make matters worse, 1.1 million highly skilled tradesmen will retire in the next 10 years, according to Construction Superintendent.

Behind the Numbers

So where, exactly, did all of the skilled labor go? For the most part, the statistics speak for themselves. Plenty left the industry to find work elsewhere after the recession. Others are retiring in droves, which is especially painful as the Baby Boomers currently exiting the industry are a highly skilled crew with ample experience under their tool belts.

So where are the replacements?

The younger generation isn’t filling the void for a couple of reasons. To begin with, there’s a perception problem. Trade workers are often associated with low-wage jobs that pay less than white-collar work that requires a college degree. The reality, of course, is far from the stereotype, as well-paying opportunities on par with office jobs abound—minus the college debt.

The lack of trade education is equally to blame. Education programs that start in early grade school have declined significantly, along with apprenticeships and other training programs. How can we entice the future workforce to learn skilled trades that they’re never exposed to?

And, more importantly, what can you do about the current state of affairs?

Take Care of Your Team


Source: AGC of America 2016 Workforce Survey Results

There are a few things that you can (and should) be doing to outsmart the skilled labor shortage. Let’s start with common sense: Retain the talent that’s currently on your team. How? Take care of your people, and they won’t be tempted to leave when a better offer presents itself.

Valuing your employees goes beyond providing a steady paycheck and standard benefits. Give your team the resources they need to develop their skills and advance their careers. Help them map out their career paths at the company, then provide plenty of opportunities for growth and advancement.

Make rewards and recognition an integral part of your company culture to show employees that you’re invested in their success. In the current landscape, companies that treat their workforce like an expendable resource are going to lose.

Recruit Top Talent


Source: AGC of America 2016 Workforce Survey Results

You know what they say: If you build it, they will come. In this case, we’re talking about a company that respects and nurtures their own—not a baseball diamond. If you empower your employees and offer them ample opportunities to develop new skills and rise up the ranks, top talent will take notice.

It starts with word of mouth, which beats blind job postings any day. Don’t overlook your current employees when you’re ready to augment your staff. Encourage your team to recruit from their personal network of friends and family. Referral incentives aren’t a bad idea here, and assuming you’re treating them well, they’ll be eager to bring others into the fold.

Fill in Knowledge Gaps with Technology


It’s nearly impossible to replace an experienced retiree who has honed highly specialized skills over decades. Clearly, you’re not going to impart that kind of knowledge with a three-week training program. What to do? Turn to technology.

Innovative solutions like IntelliSchematic software put expert knowledge at your technician’s fingertips. Armed with an iPad and smart, intuitive software, even a less experienced tech can successfully troubleshoot complicated equipment problems on-site.

Emerging technology is on the rise industry-wide, and the benefits of embracing it are twofold. Beyond filling in knowledge gaps, this type of technology is also something that the next generation of contractors is interested in using. Adopting it now is essentially a recruiting tool.

Your workforce is the lifeblood of your business, and the lack of skilled labor is a challenge we all have to face. Use it as an opportunity to build a better business. Invest in your current employees and you’ll attract new talent to a company where they’re confident they can build a career.

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