…but we need to see more of them!
by Sandy Griffis, Executive Director,
Yavapai County Contractors Association
Despite the rapidly recovering construction industry, many companies are still finding it difficult to grow and move local economic development up the chain due to lack of a workforce.
As is the case in any business, people are an organization’s greatest resource. The quality of this most important resource – people – is what distinguishes one team or company from another. Having talented management in place to guide and direct operations is crucial, and obviously, having an adequate number of skilled and unskilled workers to perform the work is also a necessity. Finding and recruiting a sufficient number of skilled, talented people – not only in the construction trades, but every other business – is becoming increasing difficult. There are several factors contributing to this problem. As in construction, this is typically viewed as being one of the least desirable industries in which to work. Surveys among the nation’s youth show construction at the bottom of the list of professions that they would enter. Construction, by nature, is dangerous, dirty and hard work. Other industries or professions offer preferred work environments that are cleaner, safer and generally more desirable, so consequently, there is a severe shortage of talented people willing to work in construction.
The construction industry in North America has relied upon immigrant or foreign labor to varying degrees throughout the course of history. Thousands of Chinese laborers built the transcontinental railroads in the 19th century. European immigrants constructed the urban landscape in the 19th and 20th centuries. And a few years back, the labor void was filled largely by Hispanics. Hispanic labor from Mexico and other Latin American countries was filling the gap in the domestic workforce. These hard-working individuals were making a substantial contribution toward keeping the industry moving and producing. And with the baby boomers retiring and with the millennials, who grew up in an electronics-filled, socially-networked world, what workforce do we have? Millennials working in construction – heck no!
When a news story features the construction industry, it is often accompanied by images of serious men and women in hard hats and tool belts, surrounded by chaos, showcasing the gritty elements of the jobsite. But according to a new study, the best tool in a construction craft professional’s toolbox might just be their smile.
TINYpulse, in its “Best Industry Ranking Report,” shows that construction professionals are the happiest employees in the workforce. Based on surveys conducted across 30,000 employees, the construction industry rose to the top of the list of happiest employees, even above industries such as consumer products, technology and finance.
There’s no doubt that the commercial and industrial construction markets have bounced back from the recession. Average hourly wages have increased, and job creation in the construction industry over the past 12 months has been the fastest since 1999, however, there is not a workforce to support this job creation.
There are strong opportunities for professional growth in the construction industry. There are promotion paths and unlimited opportunities for mentorship and training. As an industry, construction has displayed a commitment to workforce training and skill development that few others can match. Construction is one of the few industries where, with the right training, job experience and commitment, an employee can start his or her career in a craft training program and grow to be a company owner. We need commitment from our schools and our educators to provide industry-recognized training for in-demand careers, to ensure that the future of the construction industry will be all smiles. Where would America be without the construction industry?