Bridging the Skills Gap: How to Find Qualified Workers for Your Construction Team

3 min read

It takes a village to build, develop, or renovate even the simplest house. While finding the right balance of highly-skilled construction workers is more challenging than ever, some companies are winning the war for talent by closing the skills gap themselves.

The construction industry has been on quite the economic rollercoaster ride. After hitting rock bottom ten years ago, the building market is now blooming like a rose (yes, they also grow in concrete). 🌹

But the fact that the economy is on an upswing doesn’t solve the worker shortage. In fact, it only makes it worse. And with experienced Baby Boomers retiring en masse, finding skilled workers is an uphill battle for many contractors.

Let's take a closer look at the problem and how some of the best and brightest employers in the industry are solving it.

Where are all the skilled construction workers?

You've heard it before. Baby Boomers are on the way out and millennials are taking over the workforce.

But many millennial workers aren't experienced enough to operate equipment safely or work in specialized areas. And others just aren't attracted to the industry.

David Curry, Director of Career and Technical Education at the Milton Hershey School from Pennsylvania blames the negative stigma commonly attached to trade professions. "I think there was a mentality here for a while we had to send our kids to college. We want our students to find success. But for certain students, that doesn't mean sitting in a classroom for four more years," he tells the US News.

The lost art of craftsmanship

Curry makes a great point. Millennials are often misunderstood, and not everybody wants to follow the well-trodden path of a doctor, lawyer or accountant.

That's why teachers at Milton Hershey utilize a "learning by doing" approach, encouraging students to gain practical experience in their chosen field. For construction and carpentry students that means building houses in the nearby community and working side-by-side with active trade professionals.

And while initiatives like this give us great hope for the future, the sad fact is, many schools just aren't doing enough to support trade and construction programs. That's where a proactive employer can help.

5 awesomely unique approaches to bridging the skills gap

We talk a lot about needing workers with the right skills and qualifications, but not so much about the process involved with gaining those credentials, namely: training and education.

Luckily, there are some forward-looking companies who are actively helping future workers acquire the skills they need to have a successful career in construction—and they're gaining thousands of hungry applicants in the process.

1. Gilbane Building Company - A buffet of growth opportunities

This family-owned national construction company from Rhode Island empowers its employees to shape their careers through a huge variety of training programs.

Gilbane University, the firm’s internal educational platform, offers everything from hands-on construction and project management training to professional training to help students develop leadership skills. And all employees have access.

2. Gray Construction - From intern to C-suite

At Gray, internships aren’t about bringing college kids in to make coffee—they're one of the company’s most powerful ways to grow its own talent. Interns at Gray are partnered with individual mentors who offer real-world training and guidance.

“Gray’s intern program has been in place more than 15 years and produced great talent. Our current COO and regional managers in our southeast and south Atlantic offices are products of this program,” highlights Susan Brewer, the company’s Vice President of HR.

Now, that's how you promote from within. 🙌

3. Procore - Committed to continuing education

It's no surprise Procore Technologies, a provider of cloud-based construction management from California, has grown so much since its launch in 2011.

The company’s Learning and Development Team provides employees with professional and personal educational programs. “When you join Procore, you’ll not only receive training for your new role but opportunities to expand your growth and knowledge in many areas. We focus on ‘CORE’ areas including personal (financial planning, home buying), professional (business skills, software training), construction (job site visits, classes led by industry experts), and leadership (communication, managing yourself and others).”

Procore offers all of the above via its own learning platform offering free CE approved courses employees can complete at their own pace.

4. Shawmut - Diversity scholarships for the win

Boston-based general contractor Shawmut is on a mission to address the industry's shortcomings, including diversity hiring.

The ambitious design and construction firm partnered up with the Wentworth Institute of Technology and founded a scholarship for young women and underrepresented students getting degrees in construction and engineering. Each scholarship winner also gets a paid, one-semester co-op at Shawmut where they get to experience what it's like to work in the industry hands-on.

5. Fluor Construction - Crafting careers

Fluor is one of the world's largest engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction and maintenance companies in the US. But they’re not just a big name, they're big thinkers, too.

In 2016, after realizing the industry wasn’t investing enough in training new employees, Fluor opened a tuition-free Training Center in Texas where students can learn trades like electrical, instrumentation, millwright, pipefitting, etc.—literally building their own careers.

“To date, more than 30,000 individuals have been trained and secured employment since its opening in the late 1970s,” says Flour.

How's that for a steady stream of talent? 👌🏽

The right way to build your applicant pipeline

If you're a regular here on the Breezy blog, you know we boldly reject the idea of a magic HR formula.

But it's clear that the construction employers who dare to combine classroom training and on-the-job experience are making an important leap toward bridging the skills gap and securing a better future for the industry.

As you set out to create your own skills training platform (and unleash all the awesome business benefits that come with it), think about what makes the most sense for the long-term health of your business. Then, set up your hiring systems to make it as easy as possible to execute.

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