For the second year in a row, AGC of America gathered professionals working in construction workforce development to share best practices and brainstorm ideas on how to meet continued labor challenges in the industry.
The association’s 2022 National Construction Industry Workforce Summit convened in November and brought together over 150 representatives of contracting and construction companies, unions and association chapters for a series of targeted breakout sessions and group presentations.
Sharing Knowledge on Industry Challenges
The Summit focused on cultivating the construction workforce of the future along with effectively managing the current construction workforce. Participants discussed a range of topics including recruitment, employee training and development and retention issues and they shared ideas in nine targeted breakout sessions.
While the onsite conversations and learning were key to the event, AGC is committed to sharing insights and information broadly to the industry through a report on the Summit’s findings. The association notes that sharing knowledge can help address industry challenges. These challenges aren’t insignificant, and they aren’t new.
Why Construction is Facing Workforce Shortages
For years fewer young people have entered the profession as more opted for college over trade school or an apprenticeship. Once-ubiquitous shop classes have disappeared from many schools leaving students with limited exposure to various vocations available to them, including the skilled trades.
Over time that’s led to an aging of the construction workforce with not enough new employees to replace those retiring.
But retirement isn’t the only thing enticing workers away from construction. The average monthly turnover in construction has been higher than in other industries for more than a decade at 5.2% versus 3.6%.
During the pandemic, other industries hiked wages, making them a more attractive alternative for some in construction or contracting.
And younger employees are increasingly looking for flexibility in their jobs, which is harder to accomplish in construction, which may require travel to a job site away from home and long or off-hours.
Another factor impacting construction, which despite recent gains in the number of women in the field remains a predominately male profession, is decreasing workforce participation among men. Studies show that a significant number of men of prime working age have been quietly and steadily leaving the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2001 men aged 24 to 54 had a workforce participation rate of 91.3%. By 2021 it had dropped to 86.4%. For younger men aged 16 to 24, the decrease was even steeper, from 67% in 2001 to 50.7% in 2021.
Construction Firms are Working to Hire
Despite the headwinds presented by worker shortages, there’s work available and construction firms are looking to ramp up to do it. In the 2023 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report, AGC found that 69% of firms expect to increase headcount this year. At the same time, eight out of 10 say they are having a hard time filling some or all salaried or hourly craft positions and 58% see hiring as remaining hard or becoming harder this year.
When they are able to hire, firms are also concerned about the skill level of their workers. A significant 83% cited inexperienced employees or workforce shortages as a top health/safety challenge.
Construction industry consultants at McKinsey suggest that “to ensure access to the skills they need, construction sector companies can accelerate the onboarding of recruits, boost retention by revisiting what employees want beyond wages, and invest more in developing their pipelines of future workers.”
As demonstrated in the 2022 National Construction Industry Workforce Summit Report, that’s just what construction workforce development professionals across the country are doing. They’re not only putting on their thinking caps, they’re effectively rolling up their sleeves, working with schools, colleges and a variety of local stakeholders to reimagine and reinvigorate recruiting and retention.
Sharing great ideas on workforce development and executing them strongly will help firms and other organizations rise to the challenge of recruiting and retaining great construction employees.
The 2022 National Construction Industry Workforce Summit Report was produced by AGC with support from Arcoro, the construction industry’s leading HR technology company. Read the results and ideas shared in the Summit’s breakout sessions by downloading the report here.