As workforce challenges impact big and small construction businesses, industry experts share their latest efforts to diversify, attract and retain talent. Time is of the essence as the field scrambles to gear up for the eventual passage of federal funding for infrastructure.
Work That Can’t Be Done from the Sofa
ENR reports that with both small and large construction firms scrambling for talent, the shortages could worsen:
Passage of a new infrastructure funding bill could be a mixed blessing in light of workforce challenges. The industry could be short 1.5 million to 2 million workers by 2025, estimates Boyd Worsham, president of the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
With staffing crunches of their own, public sector agencies could be challenged in how quickly they can set up and award funded projects, STV CEO Greg Kelly told peers at EFCG. “Agencies face the same demographics we do,” he said. “There will be a lag effect for how this flows into the pipeline.”
While studies show most employees prefer to keep remote work a big part of their work life, Kelly raised issues of the impact on project team dynamics in executing the expanded infrastructure effort, as well as other programs.“We can’t do this from our couch wearing a hoodie,” he says. “We’re in a project-based business and we have to find ways to bring our employees together for team approaches.”
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Investing In People
Recently, several large contractors teamed up to host an inaugural “Construction Inclusion Week,” focused on attracting more talent from groups traditionally under-represented across the construction industry. According to ENR, more than 1,100 firms participated in the effort. While no one anticipates that the event will immediately solve “nagging” industry issues, experts were encouraged buy the participation. Some construction companies are also investing to retain the talent they have:
As a post-COVID retention incentive, HITT Contracting paid out bonuses to about 60% to its 1,300 workers, up to $10,000 each, for a total of about $4 million. “It’s important to us to ensure that team members know they’re the heart of our business, especially during one of the most difficult times in recent history,” says CEO Kim Roy. “This labor shortage was already a struggle at the end of 2019.”
Robotics are boosting productivity and safety, “which in turn attracts talent excited by emerging technologies,” Roy says, noting that teams used Hilti’s semi-autonomous Jaibot to drill ceiling anchors on a large base building job site in Washington, DC. “Work that would normally take 10 days was completed in just four while relieving workers from the strenuous and potentially dangerous repetitive task of drilling overhead, allowing them to focus energy elsewhere,” she says.
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