One of the greatest challenges the construction industry faces today is labor and training. The average age of a competent technician is mid-forties, and is inching towards retirement. Some also say that a lack of training in new recruits can cause a need for extra body count on job sites to make up for the lack of skill and experience.
Addressing the image problem the construction industry has is key to attracting new trainees. It is difficult to sell a career option that may not be tied to job security and benefits within one company. This is what often makes workers look in other directions for what they may perceive as more meaningful employment.
Attracting and retaining new workers comes down to offering more than a paycheck. Construction employers need to promote themselves as offering a career path.
"The Gulf Coast is particularly vulnerable because of the high work demand, aging workforce and hurricane recovery," says Tim Horst, Gulf Coast workforce development program manager. Education grants that became available after the hurricanes in 2005 are helping fund the Gulf Coast Workforce Development Initiative, which offers free tuition to students who wish to train in a wide variety of construction professions. Programs include instruction in welding, electrical work, utility line work, plumbing, and heavy equipment operation. A marketing initiative launched the program last year, and more than 9,000 new workers have been trained since, nearly half of the Gulf Coast Workforce Development's goal.
A large part of the initiative is also matching graduates with potential employers. Résumés are kept on hand, and the initiative tracks the success of these graduates after completion of the program with the help of the National Center for Construction Education and Research in Florida.
Construction Associations are also a strong ally in the struggle to find new employees. Many offer apprenticeships and other training opportunities for all levels.
Offer a challenging environment with opportunities to learn new skills. For some, doing the same job every day is like eating the same meal over and over. While some contractors wisely specialize crew to specific tasks on a project, such as pile driving or placing a bridge deck, it is also important to give employees a chance to try something different. Taking a chance on a proven employees will boost that employee's value to the contractor, paying greater dividends and saving an investment in a new recruit.
The National Center for Construction Education and Research, www.nccer.org/index.asp
Gulf Coast Workforce Development, www.imgreat.org