Mitigating the Labor Shortage

By Randall Curtis, Executive Vice President

It’s no secret the construction industry is facing a labor shortage. Everybody is busy with work and because of that, everyone in the construction industry is holding on to their staff a little tighter these days. It was once common to flood jobs with labor toward the end of a project, working to overcome any delays during the construction process while still getting clients a quality building on time. But if we rely on that plan in today’s market, we may find those resources are no longer available. A historically transient labor force is now working for one company because there is so much available work for these skilled craftsmen.

As an industry, we are finding new ways to mitigate the labor shortages we are facing, and communication is key. That sounds elementary because we always communicate with our offices and our job sites. Now we are communicating with many of our workers, listening and hearing their concerns. We know they are scared. Contractors in general need to untangle the immigration message and share the facts with employees on an ongoing basis. One way we’re doing this at Hoar is through a series of town hall meetings with CEO Rob Burton. During these meetings, Rob provides industry and company updates and answers questions from our employees around the country.

Through industry organizations such as Associated Builders and Contractors we are working with legislators and congressional representatives, asking for information on laws that are being considered and providing insight on construction industry concerns. We want to get in front of any new legislation, but we also want to be heard and have a voice on issues that affect our industry.

Immigration isn’t the only issue when it comes to labor shortages. Promoting the construction industry to a new generation of workers is also critically important to resolving this shortage. ABC’s Academy of Craft Training had a very successful first year and the parent-student meeting for this upcoming year was standing room only — a great sign for the future. I’m impressed with the thought high school students in the program have put into their decision to find work and begin their careers right out of school. At the college level, building science, construction management, and engineering enrollment is at an all-time high. We need to focus on getting more of those students interested in superintendent positions — by far the most difficult position to fill. Superintendents need building experience, and intern and co-op programs provide valuable on-site training.

Resolving the immigration issue, recruiting workers at all levels, and continuing to encourage training and education are all important in reducing the labor shortage. I challenge us all to stay informed on the issues, and motivate and recruit new construction workers who will help our industry thrive.