Canada and the United States have pulled out of the building
recession and are rapidly making their way towards a building boom. Most
construction firms find they're optimistic about near-term prospects, but
far-thinking employers have a growing concern.
A report from The Associated General Contractors of America
indicates that most firms are looking to increase their payroll for the first
time in a decade. However, fewer young people are choosing careers in the
skilled trades, and more construction employees are opting to retire; all the
warning signs are there for a looming shortage in the skilled trades industry.
To a wise man, the word "problem” sounds much like
"opportunity”. Here, we’ll list six ways you and your company can try and
address the upcoming labour shortage problem.
1) Allocating Education Funds for Skilled Workers
One oft-discussed improvement would be for the government to
redirect some of the money that’s currently dedicated to colleges and
universities; instead use those funds towards getting more people enrolled in
trade schools. If even a small amount of funds were redirected, this could represent
a considerable government investment in the skilled trades.
Some folks may not be cut out for college but could excel at
a skilled trade. More effort and collaboration between government, businesses,
and the education system could be one of the best ways to increase the number
of young people entering the skilled trades. Further collaboration, the thought
goes, will lead to more success with students completing skilled trade programs
in community colleges and trade schools. Make an effort to get involved in
talks with local trade schools and government representatives.
2) Changing the Conversation about Construction Work
Another point that is brought up in the conversation is that
the public discourse around career choices has shifted strongly towards college
and university and away from trade schools and apprenticeships. The dialogue,
the argument goes, should be shifted back; the skilled trades offer good jobs
and stable careers that can comfortably provide for an employee and their
Famous figures such as Mike Rowe and John Ratzenberger have
started organizations, like mikerowe WORKS and the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs
Foundation to help work towards this change in the conversation, increasing the
respect and prestige given towards the skilled trades as a career choice. With
this in mind, consider the language you use in your recruitment process. Focus
on the benefits a job in the skilled trades has over other "white collar" jobs. Especially
when recruiting young people.
3) Involve Yourself Early
There's only going to be so many new workers in the skilled
trades, and there's likely to be multiple companies trying to recruit each of
them. Approaching the young people already in trade schools for skilled trades
careers is an obvious option, but if you can get involved earlier than that,
you might be able to increase the number of workers available (and make a great
Reach out to high schools and see about sending a valued
foreman to promote skilled trade careers directly to the students during career
days. Personal stories from those in the industry can be powerful, and it can
offer a chance to correct misconceptions about skilled labour careers and
spread the word about the financial incentives.
4) Send Your Work Home
Children related to those working in the skilled trades have
the chance to see that the industry is in a period of growth, that salaries are
solid & stable, and that workers have an opportunity to feel valued. Many
of these children – your workers’ own kids, or their nieces and nephews – may
consider the skilled trades for themselves.
It’s worth considering the benefits of broadening your
company’s training programs to include these young people or providing a
scholarship program to make trade school an (even more) affordable option. It’s
also worth noting that this can be another area in which your company’s work to
increase the retention (and satisfaction) of your employees will pay more
5) Retain Your Existing Workers
It's worth considering that with a tightening labour market,
there’s going to be increasing demand for your existing employees, too.
Efforts to retain existing employees pay off twice; you retain a skilled
employee, and you prevent other, competing companies from gaining such an
Retaining employees is an extensive topic, but it’s
worthwhile to consider some of the motivations behind changing careers. Make
sure your employees feel comfortable coming to you and letting you know what
they’re looking for – personally and professionally – and be willing to help
them reach their goals, and they’ll help you reach yours.
6) Improve Efficiency – Do More With Less
If you are having trouble finding enough technicians or
skilled workers for your current workload, it may be a good opportunity to examine
your workflow. Look for bottlenecks, or gaps in the processes that are
preventing your current workers from being as efficient as possible.
Sometimes hiring more admin staff to assist your skilled
workers will help. If the admin staff takes on the paperwork, your technicians
will have more time to focus on completing the work. There are also many
software solutions that can help you streamline your workflow processes. If you
aren’t currently making use of such a solution, consider implementing a
dispatching app or Field Service Management Software, to improve your
The upcoming contraction in the skilled labour workforce is not
in doubt. There’s going to be fewer workers vying for more jobs, and that’s
going to affect the market. The choices before you, or any other business owner
in the skilled trades, are how to interact with that shortage; how to mitigate
it, or better, how to leverage it to your company’s advantage. Here we’ve
discussed a few possibilities, but there are a number of other possibilities;
if your company is moving in another direction, we would love to hear about it!
SnapSuite is a Toronto based software company that helps businesses in the construction and skilled trade industries increase their operational efficiency.
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