By Nicole Needles, NCCER
Many industries are looking forward to growth and renewal in 2022, especially the construction industry. The demand and potential for success in the coming years are increasingly looking more promising with each day. Yet, even with a favorable outlook overall, there is always the potential for a few bumps in the road. Consequently, it is important for owners to be well-equipped to handle workforce fluxes to ensure project success. From being financially prepared to fostering a healthy workplace environment, planning is crucial.
Boyd Worsham, President, and CEO of NCCER, pointed out that workforce fluxes are true for any industry. “There is never the perfect amount of people or the perfect amount of work … we need to make sure that the people who have the right skills, attributes, and interests have a place to work. The only way to do that is to proactively make sure that we provide jobs for those people and that we don’t outsource work to the point where it hurts our on-site and local workforce. It’s a matter of reacting to conditions, but also being wise.”
Job growth in the construction industry has become steady in recent months and is forecasted to remain so, if not grow incrementally. According to AGC’s data analysis, 31,000 jobs were created between October and November 2021 in all sectors. This is most likely due to the bounce back from the detriments that were caused by the pandemic, as well as the federal investments in infrastructure.
Additionally, ABC is experiencing similar findings in workforce data and trends. While growth is hoped for and expected, there is also the real possibility of stagnation. ABC reported that the unemployment rate in the construction industry rose to 4.7% in November and that contractors are experiencing difficulty hiring. However, according to ABC chief economist Anirban Basu, “…the labor force participation rate rose to 61.8% from 61.6%…” which is heartening news.
Speaking of small victories, the Construction Labor Market Analyzer (CLMA) shows that month-to-month growth rates of jobs in the industry are averaging 0.6% and 0.8% respectively. This is due, in part, to the 405,000 jobs that were recovered from a sizable dip in February 2020. This is 63% of the nonresidential jobs that were lost, and have since resurfaced.
What’s An Owner To Do?
With conflicting outlooks and the imminent possibility of adversity, what can owners do to ensure they are taking a proactive approach to upcoming years? Staying on top of industry trends is helpful for making adjustments and trying new strategies.
For example, in 2022, 3D printing is finding its permanent home in construction. Trends like this are important to stay up to date on, especially those developments that relate to COVID-19 and the ways to accelerate business recovery and adapt to a new normalcy.
“The pandemic simply complicated things,” Worsham says. “It’s going to complicate everyone’s world in the whole construction supply chain.” This includes craft professionals who have to worry about their own health and how it affects their families, as well as owners who have facilities requirements to keep in mind, not to mention employee health. Special attention to detail is needed.
In addition to tracking the ever-changing forecast of the construction industry, maintenance of what is already on the radar is just as important. This means existing resources, projects, and employees. Continuously cultivating an environment that gets employees excited about what they do, makes them feel cared about, and helps them remember why they love their work is perhaps the most important job of all.
A few ways to do this are to promote mental well-being for workers and to always remember that mental health is still health. Understanding the importance of work-life balance and offering up employee incentives is a small way to show humanity and attentiveness.
Worsham says that since owners are ultimately paying the bill for day-to-day scheduling, staffing, and productivity, “the owner’s largest opportunity is to get involved in the process.” His advice is for owners to encourage contractors to be proactive when it comes to workforce development, support those who are making effective strides in the workforce development arena and actively work to attract people into the industry.
In the same vein of bringing people into the industry is making sure there are varied experience levels on a project site. Not only will this encourage professional growth, but it will create an organically growing and successful work environment. “Owners need to think about the crew mix on their job. We have to bring new people into this industry, and we have to be able to keep them gainfully employed. This means we need to make sure there is a mix between journey-level, experienced, seasoned people, and new entrants. Owners need to embrace that mix.” Worsham says.
Supporting The Future Of The Industry
An indirect way to support the industry as a whole is to support industry-awareness events and initiatives. It may be a recruitment initiative, or a campaign, but there are so many diverse efforts that each serve a unique purpose.
One example is ABC Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter’s POWER Initiative. This initiative is intended to reach the public to promote ways to become a craft professional and, “will also create long-term growth opportunities for individuals, communities, ABC members, and the city of Philadelphia.” Local campaigns like this one allow individual construction professionals to give back to their home states and cities.
In addition, and no matter where you’re located, national campaigns such as Build Your Future (BYF) spread the mission to bridge the gap from curiosity to a career in construction everywhere.
“As an industry, we need to come together to solve this problem and to make sure we are creating awareness of great jobs, that we are recruiting actively – not just when we have an immediate need – and that we are making America’s workforce aware of the great careers in our industry,” Worsham says. “If we could do that at the contractor level and at the owner level, I truly believe we could solve this problem sooner rather than later.”
There is a disconnect between the lucrative and expansive career options in the industry and the potential construction talent in the country. The question is, who is this untapped resource and how do we reach them?
Spreading the word, participating in community initiatives, and actively recruiting talent are just a few of the options to make this happen. For everyone, it is a learning process that will take earnest effort to accomplish. What is certain is that it is not beneficial to passively wait for any workforce whims to fix themselves.
Worsham says, “there is a better way. We, as an industry, need to come together and find that way.”
Nicole Needles is the communications coordinator at NCCER where she assists with the Breaking Ground Newsroom and other marketing efforts. She graduated in May 2020 from the University of Florida with her bachelor’s degree in journalism.
About NCCER – NCCER is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education foundation created by the construction 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. For more information, visit www.nccer.org or contact NCCER customer service at 888.622.3720.
About Build Your Future – Build Your Future (BYF) is NCCER’s national image enhancement and recruitment initiative for the construction industry. Its mission is to recruit the next generation of craft professionals by making career and technical education a priority in secondary schools, shifting negative public perception about careers in the construction industry, and providing a path from ambition, to training, to job placement as a craft professional. BYF provides a number of resources to assist the industry, education, and military organizations in achieving these goals. For more information, visit https://byf.org.