While many were looking forward to the beginning of the new decade, 2020 turned out to be one of the most challenging years in recent memory for the construction industry. The COVID-19 pandemic had direct and indirect effects on the industry, making it difficult or even impossible to complete projects because of a lack of skilled labor and a growing number of supply chain challenges.
Things haven’t gone entirely back to normal, but they are heading in the right direction, and the construction industry is looking at a post-pandemic boom during the second half of 2021 and beyond. How can companies rebuild their workforce ahead of this anticipated boom?
Construction Labor & Material Shortages
Working through the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone. There were long stretches of time where companies weren’t sure if they were allowed to work or not, whether their tasks were considered essential or non-essential, and how to manage social distancing on a construction site where everyone usually works shoulder to shoulder.
According to an industry expert, the industry as a whole has just “bumped along.” Between May 2020 and July 2021, the industry is still down by more than a quarter-million jobs in the United States alone.
This isn’t an unprecedented drop. The construction workforce has been on a downward trend for many years. Companies surveyed during 2020 reported that 81% of them were having trouble filling positions, both salaried and hourly, and nearly three-quarters of them were expecting labor shortages to be their biggest challenge in the coming year.
Add the fact that material costs are still climbing — up more than 24% over the last year — and companies are struggling to recover from the pandemic that turned the entire world on its ear.
Rebuilding a Struggling Workforce
Rebuilding an already struggling construction workforce is going to be one of the biggest challenges that companies will face in the second half of 2021.
In March, Associated Builders and Contractors projected that companies would need to hire upwards of 430,000 more workers than they employed the year before in order to meet demand. With the industry expected to be worth $1.45 trillion by the end of 2021, now is the perfect time to get ready to take advantage of the expected resurgence in the construction industry.
That starts with taking all the necessary steps to bring in new skilled workers, as well as approaching existing workers who may have left the industry due to a lack of work or the pandemic itself.
Outreach can bring in workers if organizations and construction companies are creative and willing to share training resources. Community colleges and vocational schools, along with other community programs like the Goodwill Skills Training Center or the YouthBuild Construction Skills Program, can always use support and guidance from local construction organizations. Youth outreach and adult education centers can assist new workers in finding pathways into the construction industry for years to come. Getting connected now can help your organization make a mark with new recruits and help financially support educators and students too.
Getting Ready for the Boom
Community outreach isn’t the only method to achieve future success. Education and training programs are incredibly valuable, but it takes time for them to make their maximum impact on the labor force. In the meantime, companies can also make internal changes to overcome labor market obstacles.
What can companies do to boost themselves up to get ready for the impending construction boom? Here are some ideas:
There is a lot of potential to be had in the coming years. It just takes a keen eye to see where the opportunities are and how to take advantage of them.
We Can Rebuild the Workforce
The construction industry is set to expand exponentially in the coming years. While it’s always been expected to bounce back, it’s up to individual business owners to help determine whether it falls apart or bounces back even stronger than before. Don’t wait. Companies looking for a way to set themselves apart from a brutally competitive pack will find that this is the perfect time to start working.
Evelyn Long, editor-in-chief of Renovated, originally wrote this blog for the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education foundation created by the industry to develop standardized curriculum and assessments with portable credentials and certifications for skilled craft professionals. NCCER provides a comprehensive workforce development system that includes accreditation, training, assessment, certification and career development solutions for the construction and maintenance industries. Visit www.nccer.org or call 888.622.3720.