By MSW Magazine | Originally posted on mswmag.com
A new study shows America is failing to prepare future workers for high-paying construction careers. According to the Associated Builders and Contractors, construction had 366,000 job openings by the end of May this year. The results come as Generation Z — those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s — are rapidly becoming a significant portion of the workforce. The construction sector must learn how to attract this generation.
A new workforce study by the Associated General Contractors and Autodesk shows that the nation is failing to showcase the many high-paying construction careers available, and that 85% of construction firms report they have open positions they are trying to fill. The problems are exasperated by data showing that a shocking 68% report that applicants applying for jobs lack the basic skills needed and that one-third can’t pass a drug test.
The data shows that contractors from all sectors, including building construction, highway and transportation projects, federal and heavy work, and utility infrastructure, all face the same problems — and that is true for companies of all sizes, in all regions of the country.
But why? Generation Z is one of the most creative, technologically skilled and entrepreneurial groups to enter the workforce. Construction, with its variety of technology-based positions and need for innovation, should be a perfect fit for Generation Z.
The problem could be that we as a nation have told students they need to go to college and get an advanced degree to be successful. This has discouraged young workers from even considering a career in construction. The aging workforce in most areas of construction highlights the problem. AGC stated that it will fight to increase funds for construction trades, noting that our nation currently invests five times as much in encouraging students to enroll in college as it does preparing them for careers in craft fields like construction.
“It is time to rethink the way the nation educates and prepares workers,” says Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist.
This is some promising news from the study. To attract younger workers, 63% are using online outlets like social media and contractors are 41% increasing internal training programs to help potential applicants with the needed skills to be successful. In addition, 25% are enhancing their online and video training and 14% are using augmented and virtual reality technology to better train workers.
Digital skills are essential for jobs in the construction industry, which is good news for tech savvy, Generation Z. A whopping 91% of respondents said that digital skills are essential to be successful. And nearly two-thirds of respondents said that about half the candidates possess the needed technology skills, which indicates Gen Z applicants are likely to be highly sought and valued.
“This is what’s so interesting and exciting about the opportunities a career in construction can provide — on a personal note, most of the jobs that I have had in this industry did not previously exist when I first arrived,” says Allison Scott from Autodesk. “And in 20 more years, we’re going to have even more roles that embrace and intertwine technology in ways we cannot even fathom right now.”
As the construction industry adapts more technology along with outreach on social media and more training programs, the hope is that future generations see this industry as an exciting and innovative career path.
“Combined with our other efforts to attract and retain workers, we are confident that investing in construction education will help solve worker shortages in this sector,” says Simonson.
Here are some ways you can start attracting Generation Z today:
Emphasize technology and innovation
Contrary to traditional views of construction, today’s industry is tech-savvy and innovative. Gen Z, having grown up with smartphones and the internet, is perfectly poised to navigate this new frontier. By highlighting the use of drones for site surveys, virtual reality for project visualization and Building Information Modeling for design and management, the industry can appeal to the tech-oriented aspirations of this generation.
Engage early through internships and partnerships
By partnering with educational institutions, construction firms can offer internships, workshops and collaborative projects. Engaging with Gen Z while they’re still in school can give them firsthand experience of the industry’s potential and pave the way for a future career. This early engagement can demystify the sector and highlight its multifaceted opportunities.
Showcase sustainability and green construction
Young individuals today are increasingly concerned about environmental issues. The construction industry’s push towards sustainable practices — including energy-efficient designs, green materials and renewable energy integration — aligns well with this mindset. Highlighting how technology is making sustainable construction a reality can attract environmentally conscious workers who seek meaningful and impactful careers.