It seems everywhere you turn nowadays, if you are speaking to someone in the construction industry, it is inevitable that the conversation will turn to the labor shortage. If you are having a hard time finding qualified, skilled workers, you’re not alone. Despite steady industry growth, companies are still struggling to fill key roles on the jobsite, and as a result, are at risk of missing out on jobs or extending project timelines.
But, before you panic, remember that statistics can only tell one part of the story. While the construction labor shortage is a threat to your bottom line, the right tactics and tools can mitigate your risk exposure. Understanding the reasons behind this shortage and employing some creative tactics can help you cope with a reduced workforce, without sacrificing quality or turning down new projects. In fact, implementation of methodologies like Agile Construction® and tools like JPAC® and SIS® are shown to increase productivity by an average of 30% even in the midst of this shortage of skilled workers!
Where Did Everybody Go?
It wasn’t long ago that the industry actually had a surplus of workers; at the height of the housing bubble, the U.S. added 900,000 construction jobs. However, during the 2006-2011 recession, the construction industry shed over 2 million jobs. Nearly a decade later, the industry has recovered(along with the jobs), but there seems to be no one around to take them.
Today, there are reports of hundreds of thousands of unfilled skilled labor positions available. So, where did those workers go? There are several theories regarding this:
- During the recession, skilled workers who were unable to find work joined new industries or dropped out of the workforce entirely.
- Baby Boomers are beginning to retire in record numbers and are leaving all industries, including construction.
- Millennials are entering the market, but many have unrelated degrees, no training or connection to construction and little interest in jobs in the field.
- While immigrant workers can fill the gap in many cases, there is a language barrier in the hiring and training process.
- Many construction companies have not innovated their hiring processes and are not attracting and tapping into new talent markets.
The reality is that while all of these factors contribute to the labor shortage, there is one undeniable cause. Industrialization of Construction®. The simple fact is that the construction industry still operates at the same productivity level as it did in the 1950s, and in some cases the productivity has even dropped off from then. Until the productivity issue is fixed, the labor shortage will continue to present itself.
How Can Companies Cope with the Construction Labor Shortage?
Despite booming growth, the industry is in a panic over the construction labor shortage—and for a good reason. Nonetheless, there are several ways to improve the number of skilled workers, but many of them take time. Outreach to high schools and older teens to promote the industry, appealing to young adults, and even aggressively recruiting at local trade schools do help, but these are not immediate solutions.
To fix the labor crisis, construction companies should be investing in cutting edge technology, in addition to new strategies to measure and improve the productivity of their existing workforce. Agile Construction® methodologies are paramount to not only surviving the labor shortage but can lead your company to thrive while others are scrambling trying to find new workers that just don't exist.
Productivity Software Can Help Bridge the Gap
In many cases, choosing the right tool can make a big difference for Project Managers, foremen and superintendents by allowing them to get more done through increased efficiency and productivity. And many construction companies are starting to use it as a real solution for the labor shortage. Truly the only way to increase productivity is to effectively measure it first and JPAC® is the only recognized way to do that by ASTM. Additionally, if you want to increase productivity, you must begin to understand the obstacles that are holding your team back. Proper use and review of Short Interval Scheduling or SIS® will not only make visible tasks that are not completed on schedule, it identifies the roadblocks that caused the issue, allowing your project team to compile this data and pivot away from productivity killing processes that are sapping profits from your jobs.
If your worksites are not operating at peak efficiency, you’ll feel the pinch of the construction labor shortage far more than your competitor, who is using the latest technology to streamline their organization.
The right tools can help you run a more efficient jobsite and eliminate costly mistakes such as rework, material handling, etc.
How to Increase Construction Productivity in a Tight Labor Market: Plan Ahead
New construction technology seems to arrive every day and sifting through all of it can be a daunting task. One piece of advice when searching for the right solution is to partner with a company that also has a deep understanding of the problem as well as the resources to provide continuous training and education for your team.
With the right insight into what can boost productivity, companies can overcome the unique problems you risk from being short handed on the jobsite. Don’t waste your time re-inventing the wheel and experimenting with solutions that may not work. Instead, find the right partner and let them guide you through the journey.