Building A New Generation of Contractors

The days of supply chain shortages may be in the rearview mirror, but a new challenge now plagues the construction industry - an increasing lack of skilled construction labor. To meet market demand, the construction industry needs approximately 723,000 new workers each year. The number of open construction sector jobs currently averages between 300,000 to 400,000 every month.

Home Builders Care, the charitable arm of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, recently opened the Home Building Academy in Phoenix. Here students participate in a nine-week, rapid worker training, resulting in industry-recognized certificates in either carpentry or electrical work. The academy is tuition-free for qualified students, and students maintaining “satisfactory” academic progress will receive a weekly stipend for living expenses. Successful graduates will also receive a set of tools, boots, work clothes, and personal protective equipment.

But is simply providing the avenue of study enough of a draw to the next generation of potential contractors? To answer that question, one must understand the mindset and motivations of the Millennial and Gen Z generations. They are digital natives who grew up with the internet and technology and are used to constant stimulation and fast-paced living. They also value work-life balance, diversity, and flexibility in the workplace, and seek to make a social impact through work. They expect employers to care about their well-being. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are important. To attract and retain the next generation of workers, companies must take steps to adapt their workplaces and recruiting practices to meet these needs and values.

A company’s brand and reputation can be just as important as its salary or benefits. While a company can have a fantastic reputation with clients, it’s irrelevant if young workers don’t have the same perception. If they feel like it’s not keeping up with modern trends or providing them with the opportunity to make an impact, they may be less inclined to work there. To overcome this barrier, companies must take a proactive approach to build a positive market reputation and brand. This may involve volunteer projects, community partnerships, social media presence, or other marketing initiatives highlighting the company’s values and commitment to progress.

Young workers are drawn to companies that have transparent, inclusive cultures where employees feel valued and respected. One way to create this type of workplace is by investing in opportunities for professional development. For example, offering classes on topics like leadership and management, communication, digital technologies, or DEI. Allowing workers to develop their own ideas and solutions can also help foster a sense of belonging, ownership, and engagement in company culture.

Today’s young workers also seek companies that can provide career growth and development opportunities. They need to know that their job is important to the company’s success and that they’re not just a number. Offer mentorship, growth, and development opportunities such as hiring or promoting individuals with knowledge and expertise in a certain area, pairing young workers with more experienced employees, or offering training workshops to improve their skills and help them advance in their careers.

And, let’s face it, money is always a huge motivating factor. No one is looking to work for free, and if compensation or benefits packages don’t meet expectations, employees are quick to leave. At a minimum, to attract a young construction crew, a company should be offering competitive base salaries and benefits packages. This may include things like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans. Disability and life insurance and other perks, such as gym memberships, health and wellness programs, or free lunches, are another way to set a company apart.

Millennials and Gen Zers are tech-savvy and expect construction companies to be as up-to-date and innovative when it comes to technology, just as they are in other industries. The construction industry is often slow-paced when it comes to adopting new technologies, but if they want to attract and retain the best young talent, they need to start investing in technology that will help them stay competitive.

Then there is the actual hiring process - most construction companies rely only on traditional recruitment methods, such as job boards or recruiting agencies. But the reality is that only a fraction of available talent will appear on these lists - and they may not be the best candidates for a company. To attract and retain young workers, a more proactive approach needs to be taken. Build relationships with local universities and colleges, offer internships, co-op programs, or attend job fairs. Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to engage with potential candidates and share information about company culture and opportunities. Host recruitment events or offer internship programs to connect with young workers and give them a chance to see what working in construction is like.

Attracting and retaining construction workers has never been easy. But by focusing on the needs and preferences of younger workers, investing in a company’s culture and workplace environment, and actively reaching out to potential employees helps the industry build a strong team of young talent that will help an organization thrive for years to come.