Combating the Labor Shortage

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Gypsum wall under constructionCarol Morgan, Managing Partner at Marketing RELEVANCE, will be on a panel of speakers discussing the effects of the labor shortage on the construction industry. During Frame Atlanta, a breakfast hosted by Meyers Research on March 21, 2017, the panel will address the national, state and local economy and how the building industry can meet the challenges of an insufficient work force.

Come prepared to hear an expert panel discuss thee lack of skilled labor in Home Building.The panel will be moderated by Steve LaTerra, Managing Director of Meyers Research Advisory

The panel consists of:

Carol Morgan – Managing Partner at mRELEVANCE

Daniel Castro – Professor and Chair at Georgia Tech School of Building Construction

Mark Butler – Commissioner at Georgia Department of Labor

Paul Corley – CEO at Edward Andrews Homes

The Great Recession took with it demand for new construction. When home building slowed, laborers waited as long as possible for jobs to open. When jobs dried up, more than 30% of construction workers jumped ship for employment in other fields. Many of these people are unlikely to return to building. Additionally, major commercial projects in large cities are depleting the available workforce.  Immigration legislation is affecting this labor pool as well. Finally, many career construction workers are nearing retirement age.

As the industry roars back to life, home builders continue to contend with a cascade of consequences. Building is back, but the labor force isn’t yet here that can support it. Last July saw a nine year high in demand for newly constructed homes. To build those houses, managers need to fill positions. In December, 2016, the hiring rate grew at its fastest rate since 2015, jumping nearly 6%. Over 700,000 jobs will be available to skilled workers in 2017. Builders struggle to find strong candidates and have resorted to approving on-the-spot raises to keep staff from leaving for competitors.

So how do we solve the labor shortage?  In order to increase productivity and meet demand, we need to find creative ways to fill open positions. By accessing national programs, solutions start to emerge. For example, HBI, formerly the Home Building Institute provides programs that benefit builders and workers alike. Career training and job placement are part of their national services. They are implemented locally, though, so each community can get help for different needs. In fact, to counteract the myth that there isn’t enough training to enter this industry, HBI has an apprenticeship program which can include federal funds for builders and certify “interim credentials” for employees.

NAHB also has been reaching out to high school students in order to encourage younger people to consider careers in building. States from Montana to Alabama have recruited students to participate in home building projects. The students gain experience and training on the job as they explore opportunities in this field,  and the associations expand their reach – all while building a home for a soon to be homeowner..

Morgan suggests local associations and guilds review these programs for their use and consider implementing some other strategies to increase their employee pool. Some simple actions construction companies can take are to hire recruiters, invite high school students to shadow and provide training and a career path for young applicants. In order to shift perceptions about the construction industry, builders and contractors would do well to reach out to women and minorities. If these groups become aware of and have access to opportunities in this field, everyone benefits. In fact, the industry with the greatest income parity between men and women is the construction industry, where women earn .97 to every $1 men earn, which is well above the national average.

Builders who showcase the benefits of a career in building can attract reliable employees. In addition, companies must understand how to provide consistent training and adapt to managing a younger generation. Millennials appreciate frequent feedback, competitive wages and feeling part of a team, which will differ from how more experienced employees prefer to be managed

It will take creativity and commitment to meet the challenges of the labor shortage. Those seeking to solve the issue of the labor shortage will be the ones who can meet demand.

Morgan speaks often on marketing and social media.  Through her involvement in the NAHB she has become interested in issues that face the industry and stifle its growth. She can speak to your association or group on this and a variety of topics. To learn more, contact Marketing RELEVANCE.