The Struggle For Skilled Labor In Construction Continues In 2019

The construction industry is struggling due to an aging workforce, and a gender and skilled-labor gap. How can construction companies engage in recruitment that not only benefits them, but the industry as a whole?

Many skilled construction workers are from the baby boomer era and coming to retirement age, and finding workers with the necessary skills is becoming increasingly more difficult. As a result, the industry is aggressively targeting and recruiting younger students and veterans. This also includes other non-traditional hires and even people who are coming out of prison.


The Skilled Labor Gap

A lack of skilled labor in the construction industry has become a tremendous burden for many companies all across the US. According to a survey released in January 2019 from the AGC and Sage Construction and Real Estate: Seventy-nine percent of construction firms plan to expand headcount in 2019. The reason? To keep pace with growing project demand in the sector. Despite this anticipated growth, nearly seventy-eight percent of construction firms say they are having a hard time filling both salaried and craft positions.


What factors have led to this worker shortage?

During the recession in 2008 and 2009, many skilled laborers left the construction industry for other occupations. After the rebound, the industry underwent a slump in new hires, as laborers found work elsewhere, and construction companies no longer trained new workers.

  1. The boom is boosting spending from consumers and businesses who have more cash on hand for expansions and improvements
  2. It’s exacerbating the industry’s growing inability to fill jobs

How has this affected the industry?

Increasing construction costs have been a direct result of this skilled labor shortage, as companies have to pay a premium for workers who can perform. Entice these new hires with bigger benefits packages naturally leads to an increase in overhead.


Rethinking recruitment approaches

Construction industry leaders have had to rethink their recruitment approaches and embrace new ways of recruiting and retaining laborers. Some have turned to non-traditional methods, such as applying more effort hiring women and military veterans and increasing recruitment from trade schools.


Real conversations on hiring practices

I recently had a conversation around the struggles to find good workers and ways to improve the search with one of our clients in the St. Louis area. They reported that due to lack of better methods, they currently post jobs out on their job board and hire anyone who can pass a drug test. It’s only then that they see what the new hire can do; training as needed for the construction project.


How can we overcome this construction labor shortage?

Offering higher pay, better benefits and on-the-job training are just a few of the ways construction companies are dealing with the sharp decline in available skilled labor. Many construction associations are also helping to combat the shortage by offering scholarship opportunities to entice young people to train in the construction industry.


Good starting points in overcoming the labor challenge

If you are looking to overcome the challenge of finding skilled labor and keep your costs reasonable, there are a few places you could turn. Local high schools have plenty of younger workers that aren’t sure where they are going yet. Reaching out to schools to help them create or continue to grow construction training programs and promote the industry might be a fantastic starting point. Trade schools in your area are also an excellent source for recruits. You can make connections before students graduate and you know they will have the necessary skills upon completion of their program.


Ideas for solving the labor shortage

  1. Look for regional construction training programs, similar to Project Jumpstart in Baltimore, MD. If there isn’t one, perhaps a collaborative effort with a local association could get a program started in your area.
  2. Area associations are also a great resource. They provide students with scholarships to attend trade schools, and may be able to give you some contacts looking to get into the trades.
  3. Another source of of hard-working individuals who may be looking for work is your local Military Reserve Center or National Guard Center. Current and veteran military personnel are typically dedicated and skilled, and they know what it means to be team members.
  4. Lastly, there are always construction job boards and construction staffing firms. If you aren’t finding success with job boards, you might look at creating your own. There are tools available to contractors to help with recruiting and applicant tracking. One example is Arcoro HR, which allows you to post your jobs and collect applications electronically while fully integrating into your existing website.



The construction industry needs to find better methods for attracting workers. Then finding solutions to get them up to speed quickly and retain those workers to keep costs lower for themselves and their clients. It might be time for some creative collaboration between technical schools, job boards, and regional construction associations.

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