It’s no secret that the construction industry is suffering from labour crises. While the sector as a whole is thriving, and the need for new buildings such as residential dwellings, public housing, commercial real estate, and public works and institutional building projects is growing, the professional workforce required to accomplish these critical projects is shrinking.
The construction industry is experiencing one of the worst labour shortages it has ever seen. Many construction firms claim that they are unable to meet demand due to a lack of manpower. If no expenditures are made to alleviate the labour shortage, it will have far-reaching ramifications for worker safety and construction quality, which will have a negative influence on a company’s bottom line.
It’s not a problem that can be solved with a silver bullet, but the good news is that mitigating the effects of a fast-dwindling labour pool isn’t impossible.
Although unemployment reached nearly 15% in 2020, the number of vacant construction positions remained between 223,000 and 332,000 roughly the same level as when unemployment was at 4.1 per cent.
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the construction industry in the United States employs around 5% of the nation’s workforce (7.3 million people) among 680,000 companies (BLS). The business is effectively its economy, erecting projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars every month. True, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on many aspects of the industry. However, in some cases, there is simply too much work to go around.
What Caused the Construction Industry’s Labour Shortage?
The construction industry lost nearly 2 million workers between 2007 and 2011, during the Great Recession of 2008-09. Many of these individuals have not returned, and businesses are having trouble locating fresh personnel.
According to research released in August 2018 by the Associated General Contractors of America, 80 per cent of construction companies are having difficulty hiring craft employees. What are the firms’ forecasts for 2019? Thirty-three per cent believe hiring will remain challenging, and forty-eight per cent believe it will become even more difficult to attract suitable people.
Part of the problem is that, despite the abundance of high-paying jobs on job sites, younger individuals are uninterested in working in construction. Four-year degrees and white-collar employment have long been prioritised in high schools and colleges across the United States, with some vocational programmes being eliminated. Healthcare and social services are also being prioritised above development.
More experienced personnel have either not returned to the business since the Great Recession or have reached the end of their careers and are now retiring. As a result, construction companies must compete for young talent with other industries such as healthcare, technology, and engineering.
In addition, the current workforce is ageing and retiring. In 2018, around 32% of construction labourers were 45-64 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How Can Technology Assist in Addressing the Long-Term Labour Shortage?
It’s easy to see why the scarcity has arisen, but figuring out how to address the issue is more difficult. Advanced technology, on the other hand, offers hope.
The construction sector has historically been sluggish to adopt new technology to improve productivity and optimise scheduling. Companies are already embracing innovative methods of construction as the gap between supply and demand for qualified employees widens.
It’s an exciting moment to work in the construction sector in terms of technology. By producing less waste, limiting the use of material resources, enhancing accuracy, and freeing up workers for other duties, smart technologies can decrease costs and speed up project schedules. These quickly developing technologies are offering construction companies the capacity to decrease the impact of the workforce shortage, from drones that help inspectors collect critical data to wireless concrete maturity sensors.
Robots will become more common on construction sites as technology advances. Robots are already being used on construction sites to accomplish repetitive activities like bricklaying and rebar tying because they can do so faster and more correctly than people without taking breaks. However, even more, intriguing advancements are being produced, such as Autodesk’s 3D printing robots and Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini, which can autonomously travel and scan construction sites. Excavation, grading, and site work are all done with autonomous heavy equipment. Although some human supervision is still required for these jobs, it is safe to expect that in the future, robots will be able to execute more complex tasks on their own.
New technology may potentially revitalise public perceptions of the construction business. It could be viewed as a new and fascinating profession in which students and job seekers can pursue a rich and gratifying career. Project managers, superintendents, and contractors can successfully reduce the strain of the labour shortage and ensure that they remain ahead of the competition now and in the future by embracing innovation – in technology, processes, and hiring.
The importance of training and development in retaining employees cannot be overstated.
The first step is to attract younger people by offering competitive salaries and perks. The key to expanding a construction company is retaining talented staff, as smart business owners understand. After all, according to some research, attracting and training new staff costs six to nine months’ compensation vs maintaining existing ones, due to costs connected with separation (e.g., severance and unemployment), recruitment efforts, and lost productivity costs. As a result, businesses benefit most from investing in new, younger workers as well as current employees through frequent training programmes.
programmes as well as regular safety pieces of training such as OSHA 10-hour. It shows employees that the firm cares about them and wants them to get home safely at the end of the day and it can help the company save money by minimising costly workplace injuries and accidents.
The Potential Impacts on construction firms.
Worker safety is one area where a dearth of skilled personnel can have a significant impact. According to the US Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, 80% of contractors are extremely concerned about the safety risk posed by a shortage of competent workers on their project sites. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, 34.9 per cent of new, untrained construction workers are injured during their first year on the job.
Another problem that many construction firm owners may overlook is the influence of a shortage of experienced trade personnel, such as project managers and supervisors, on productivity and quality of construction. Inexperienced project managers, according to one international study, lead to inadequate management tactics in the early stages of a project, resulting in costly delays and poor construction quality. Indeed, the top three effects of the skilled worker shortage, according to the survey, are increased project costs and delays, as well as lower building quality. Given the cost, complexity, and contentious nature of construction defect litigation in the United States, this last issue of poor building quality, or quality of workmanship, is especially notable.