As public funding for infrastructure and semiconductor manufacturing plants gets projects off the ground in regions across the country, construction experts say hiring and retaining workers could get harder. Since big projects are likely to offer well paid jobs, smaller contractors are advised to be creative in terms of what they can offer workers.
Construction Dive reminds us that promised public funding is becoming a reality in the form of big projects: “This year, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, which allocates $39 billion to build and expand semiconductor manufacturing plants, will create thousands of new construction jobs — on top of what Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America, called ‘an unusually large concentration of really large projects right now.’” While that’s terrific for the builders who win the mega contracts and subcontracts, what about those tackling smaller or more routine builds—who still need to hire and retain workers? As Simonson puts it: “A remarkable number of multibillion-dollar projects are showing up in many states….In many cases, the owners of these projects, while not insensitive to cost, may have more flexibility and willingness to pay and offer a range of benefits that smaller companies can’t.”
On the otherhand, to remain attractive to workers, smaller companies may find success by exercising the kinds of creativity and flexibility that larger companies often cannot. As one construction leader observes: “While smaller firms might not be able to compete when it comes to salaries, they have the advantage of being able to offer workers more personal relationships with owners and senior management and possibly even meaningful ownership shares.” Though money naturally remains important to employees, some local builders are improving their hiring and retention efforts as they reimagine benefits and offer “everything from hot meals and heated bathrooms on jobsites to paid volunteer and educational opportunities that may even extend to workers’ families.”
When it comes to attracting and retaining workers, it’s important to be in tune with what matters to them. For example, Keyan Zandy, CEO of Skiles Group, a mid-size general contractor in Dallas points out: “Younger generations of workers are asking more questions about company culture, what types of projects they would be working on and even safety protocols….” Other advice from building pros about attracting and retaining workers includes:
“Sell something bigger than just a project, because typically those industrial projects pay a lot more per hour than your average contractor might pay,” said Greg Sizemore, vice president…for Associated Builders and Contractors….In their efforts to hang onto workers, central Ohio construction firms are offering amenities such as free breakfast and lunch, onsite wellness centers, heated restrooms and changing areas and convenient paved parking…Tradesworkers used to ask just three questions when considering a job: how much it paid per hour, how many hours they would work and what the per diem was. “Now, the whole world’s changed,” he said. “We’ve got new people coming into the industry who are looking… to work for contractors that have a long-term value proposition that meets their needs — things like paid time off, maternity and paternity leave.”
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