The construction industry needs workers. There is so much demand – and not enough workers – that companies can’t hire employees to fill them. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) job openings in construction increased by 129,000 in February 2023 while hiring decreased by 18,000. The answer to meeting demand with a reduced workforce is diversity in construction.
Why do we need more diversity in construction? The fact is construction is largely a white, male-dominated industry. According to the BLS, 87.3% of construction industry workers are white and 89.1% are male. If you’re only hiring from the same type of candidate pool, and in return discount hiring women and people of color, you’ll eventually end up seriously shrinking the number of available workers. Broadening your recruitment efforts to a more diverse group can deepen your talent pool, plus it’s simply good business.
Why is There So Little Diversity in Construction?
It seems like a no brainer to tap into more diverse recruitment pools to find workers as women make up about half the US workforce and black workers make up 12% but it simply isn’t the case. Women make up a small percentage of construction workers and black people only 6%, according to WREI. The amount of workplace harassment experienced by women and people of color could be the reason there is so little diversity in construction.
For example, women frequently experience or encounter harassment at work. A survey of women in the trades showed 52.3% experienced sexual harassment and 52.1% experienced gender harassment. Women of color experienced even worse conditions, with 41.6% saying they directly experienced racial harassment and 45.3% encountered racist graffiti or symbols at work. Over a third of tradeswomen in that survey had considered leaving the industry, and for most of them lack of respect or harassment informed their thought process.
Before developing a recruitment plan to attract more women and people of color, construction companies need to be sure to address sexual, racial and gender harassment. According to SHRM, companies should conduct sexual harassment training during onboarding that includes defining harassment, reinforces the company’s anti-harassment policy, outlines the effect of harassment on individuals, include bystander-intervention strategies and offers additional resources.
Recruiting Strategies for More Diverse Workforce
In November 2022, hundreds of people involved in construction workforce development attended AGC’s 2022 National Construction Industry Workforce Summit. The purpose of the summit was for attendees to share knowledge and ideas about the industry. One such topic discussed in breakout sessions was the issue of diversity in construction, which was part of a larger group of topics about creating the construction workforce of the future.
Remove Transportation Barriers
One such idea for recruiting for more diversity in construction is to remove transportation barriers. According to AGC, one of the biggest recruiting challenges, particularly for traditionally underrepresented groups in the industry, is transportation to construction jobs sites. Work on projects typically starts before many public transportation systems begin operating in the morning. Being able to drive to work is essential. This help included directing workers to license recovery services, rideshare services and offering advances to cover car purchases.
Demonstrate Company Value
Showcasing company culture is important when recruiting any candidate, but even more so when trying to attract diverse workers. Demonstrate how your company values not just employees, but careers, by offering competitive wages and benefits. Summit participants stressed that it was more important to show potential employees that there is a clear, well-defined and available-to-every-successful-employee career path to advancement and leadership.
Firms also talked about the need to deliver on that career path promise to successfully retain diverse workers, including the role of creating a welcoming and inclusive culture. One way of doing this is by using instruction materials found in AGC’s Culture of Care.
Use Industry Tools and Resources
AGC’s Culture of CARE initiative offers tools and resources to help companies better focus on creating the diverse, safe, welcoming and inclusive construction industry that needs to emerge. While the materials urge firms to take the Culture of Care pledge, they also emphasize the need to get buy-in on the program from job site leaders and supervisors. That is crucial because they are the ones who play the lead role in defining the culture at construction project sites. Training jobsite leaders on what a welcoming and inclusive culture means, identifying those that have demonstrated related behaviors, and seeking diversity in culture leaders is key.
Download this Infographic, The Diversity Factor, to learn more about the numbers behind the need for more women and people of color in construction.