Labor shortages may be hard to contemplate in today’s economy, with high unemployment rates in all industries. The construction industry has been hit particularly hard. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in construction in May 2011 was 16.3%; however, this is down from 21.8% in February of 2011. As the economy begins to rebound, workforce issues and the war for talent will return. Baby boomers who put off retirement during the Great Recession will start planning to leave the workforce, taking with them a lifetime of experience, knowledge and professional skills. Who will replace them? How will the industry ensure that it can attract the best and the brightest as soon as the economy rebounds and the war for talent once again emerges?
Those companies that sacrificed to keep their skilled people during the past few years will be at a clear advantage when the turnaround comes. They will be better positioned to take on new work with a trained and talented workforce – a workforce that is loyal to the company that kept them on when times were tough.
Those firms that have not been thinking down the road in terms of their future workforce must do so now. The construction industry has long battled an inconsistent image. People perceive the work as dirty, difficult and dangerous, and many view construction-related jobs as low paying and seasonal. Many people who lost their jobs over the past several years have turned to other lines of work. How will the industry ensure that it can attract the best and the brightest as soon as the economy rebounds and the war for talent once again emerges. How do we clean up construction’s overall image and attract people to the industry now?
A number of programs exist to attract young people to construction, and one of the most prominent is the ACE Mentor Program of America, Inc., which is striving to ensure that young people consider careers in architecture, construction and engineering. Last week I attended the final meeting of the Twin Cities’ ACE pilot program in Minneapolis. The students shared their final projects, and I must say that I was impressed. I spoke with a number of mentors and coordinators who all recognized the immediate and ongoing need to attract talent to the industry, and hats off to them for their guidance, their time and devotion to ACE. But, what struck me most were the students themselves and the intelligence and enthusiasm they brought to their projects. It gave me hope for the future – their future – our future.
What is your company doing to attract and retain talent today? We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.