ABC Cheers Supreme Court OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate Ruling

On Jan. 13, ABC applauded the U.S. Supreme Court for reinstating the stay on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard, which applies to employers with 100 or more employees. On behalf of the construction industry, ABC filed one of the emergency appeals to the Supreme Court leading to this successful outcome. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the 6th Circuit, which will consider the merits of the case.

“ABC is pleased that the Supreme Court blocked OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “ABC is proud to have played an important role in preventing OSHA from causing irreparable harm to the construction industry.

“This is a big win in removing compliance hurdles for the construction industry, which is facing multiple economic challenges, including a workforce shortage of 430,000rising materials prices and supply chain issues. ABC continues to support vaccinations and encourages members to use its COVID-19 vaccination toolkit to keep workers safe on construction jobsites.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh issued a statement, “I am disappointed in the court’s decision, which is a major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country……Regardless of the ultimate outcome of these proceedings, OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers, including under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.”

On Nov. 9, ABC and its Alabama chapter filed a petition for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit against the OSHA ETS. ABC filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to stay the ETS on Dec. 20.

Learn more about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the OSHA ETS in ABC general counsel’s analysis, Supreme Court Stays OSHA “Vaccinate or Test” Emergency Temporary Standard.

In a separate ruling issued by the Supreme Court on the same day, the court lifted injunctions that had been issued against the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services vaccination mandate applicable to health care institutions and their suppliers and contractors.

Learn more about the court’s ruling on the CMS mandate in ABC general counsel’s analysis, U.S. Supreme Court Lifts Injunctions Against CMS Vaccine Mandate.

On Jan. 18,  ABC offered a webinar for ABC members on what the Supreme Court ruling means for construction employers. To access the archived webinar, go to ABC’s Academy.

ABC members should continue to monitor these developments in Newsline and the Beltway Blueprint.

How contractors employ tech solutions to help mitigate pricing woes

By Robyn Griggs Lawrence | Originally posted on https://www.constructiondive.com/

Firms like Boldt and DPR have embraced using data and BIM for detailed cost breakdowns on project bids.

When The Boldt Co. was asked to submit a proposal for a new building’s structural steel package based on very limited drawings of an existing one, the estimating team didn’t flinch. Using BIM software Autodesk Revit, Boldt designers were able to model the building in a matter of hours and send a detailed cost breakdown of the required tonnage to a fabricator, which sent back a price within a day.

“The typical way of doing it — sending documents to the subcontractor and having them do takeoff and pricing — would have taken a minimum of a week,” said Mark Nolta, corporate director of estimating and preconstruction for Boldt.

Over the past two years, Boldt has “made leaps and bounds to harvest technology” as it MacGyvers a system using several different software products to not only speed up estimating exponentially, but also make it more accurate, efficient and dynamic throughout a project’s life. Nolta said Boldt deems this effort crucial “to help us understand and keep in front of the ever-demanding pace.”

Similarly, at DPR Construction, the days of “Here are the drawings, go takeoff the job, bid it and submit a number” are over, said Philip Bartkowski, national preconstruction leader for the Redwood City, California-based contractor.

“There is a deeper expectation of preconstruction service from our clients,” he said. “The management of the entire process and guiding client/design decisions has become paramount — not just counting things and assigning a unit cost, though that’s certainly still important.”

Like Boldt, DPR uses estimating and bidding software from several different vendors, filling in gaps with in-house applications and development solutions. “The current toolset can get complex due to the expectations that have progressed in the past few decades,” Bartkowski said.

Having access to accurate and up-to-the-minute estimating capability is more crucial these days than ever, as material prices and availability fluctuate due in part to global supply chain instability. The rapid escalation of material prices, a crisis that revved up last spring, shows no sign of slowing down for at least another year, Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors, told Construction Dive.

“Starting in March of this year, it just became all-consuming,” added Brian Perlburg, senior counsel of construction law and contracts for Associated General Contractors of America. “It hasn’t let up. It’s become an evergreen issue.”

Data-rich and ready

Boldt and DPR are exceptions in an industry that has been one of the slowest to digitize. When it comes to estimating, most contractors are struggling, according to a recent report by Dodge Data & Analytics and construction management software company Procore Technologies. They need solutions that can integrate final cost estimates into project budgets, track every aspect of a job’s impact on overall project costs, forecast critical costs with real-time data from the field and dynamically track every dollar. Technologies exist to address those challenges, the report found, but “only a fraction of the industry is currently taking advantage of them.”

Many contractors dismiss the importance of construction estimating software because they see it as a back-office function, said Kevin Sturm, senior director of product marketing for Procore, whose software connects field teams, office administrators and developers in one platform.

“People think, ‘Oh, that’s accounting,’ but it’s not. It’s real-time financials connected to what’s actually happening in the field,” Sturm said.

Using pre-built templates, construction estimating software creates material and labor lists, projects estimated costs, calculates margins and integrates with resource-planning workflows, eliminating humans’ tendency toward optimism bias and strategic misrepresentation. When estimating systems such as Autodesk’s Revit are connected to BIM, a widely used technology that creates a digital representation of a structure before it’s built, costs can be automatically calculated down to the minutest details and instantly updated whenever plans change throughout construction.

BIM-connected platforms determine the exact quantities of all materials and components a project needs, shaving estimating time from days to hours. And thanks to BIM, companies now have immense sets of historical data that can be combined with external factors like cost and quantity metrics to accelerate and improve estimating.

BIM’s next evolution, the digital twin — which uses AI and machine learning to create virtual models — is spawning even more data, which contractors can continue to use for scheduling and procurement throughout the design and construction process.

“We can analyze historic information to make better decisions going forward about what subcontractors we select, how we price work and how we look at our own staffing costs and schedules,” said Chris Mills, president of New York-based Plaza Construction, which enhances its BIM efforts with several virtual applications, including Revit for estimating. Relying heavily on data analytics, the company is able to identify potential problems in addition to streamlining the estimating process.

“From my seat, that’s really meaningful use of technology to deliver a better product to our clients,” Mills said.

Into the cloud

Patrick Murphy, executive vice president of his family’s firm, Miami-based Coastal Construction, launched Togal.ai in 2019 because he saw the repetitive, onerous estimating process as ripe for automation.

Murphy knew the construction industry had some catching up to do when it comes to technology, but he had no idea how far behind it was. When he set out on his tour introducing Togal to fellow contractors, he was shocked to find out many were still using legacy software that wasn’t connected to the cloud.

“I didn’t realize how many customers would be moving to us from other software just because of that,” he said.

Using an artificial intelligence-based engine based on AIA measurement standards, Togal calculates and accurately prices jobs in seconds, eliminating the need for weeks of manual and computer labor and hundreds of pages of reporting.

“People say it takes five, maybe eight years to train a good estimator,” Murphy said. “With all the work happening right now, they can’t do it.”

COVID-19 has forced slow-to-adapt contractors to seek out technology solutions they didn’t need or want before, said Murphy, whose team is onboarding several top U.S. construction firms and in conversations with many more.

“Now, especially in markets like Florida and Texas that are so strong, everyone we talk to seems to be behind and can’t get caught up,” he said. “When we introduce Togal, they say, ‘Holy cow, you mean I can get 15 weeks of my life back?'”

Federal contractor minimum wage to rise to $15 an hour

By Ryan Golden | Originally posted on https://www.constructiondive.com/

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday a final rule implementing President Joe Biden’s executive order raising the federal contractor minimum wage from $10.95 to $15 an hour. The final rule retains the Jan. 30, 2022, deadline by which agencies must incorporate the new rate into new contract solicitations.
  • The requirements apply to federal contractors that perform work in all 50 U.S. states as well as U.S. territories, Jessica Looman, acting administrator of DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, said during a media briefing Monday. It also ends the tip credit as well as the subminimum wage provision for certain employees with disabilities.
  • The new rate does not apply to eligible federal contracts entered into before Jan. 30, 2022, but will apply to extensions of such contracts finalized after the deadline. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, the minimum wage will increase annually by an amount determined by the Secretary of Labor. Looman said the agency would soon provide guidance and educational outreach to contractors on how to implement the rule.

Dive Insight:

The legislation’s effect on construction companies will most likely be minimal, as most construction firms that do business with the federal government already pay workers at wage rates higher than the $15 per hour minimum established in the rule, said Ben Brubeck, Associated Builders and Contractors vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs, in a press statement.

It has been nearly four months since DOL published its proposed rule implementing Executive Order 14026, which Biden issued in April.

Questioned as to whether the implementation of the order would lead to excessive costs for contracting businesses, Looman said public comments on the proposal were “mostly very positive” and that the agency has been in contact with the Small Business Administration in developing guidance material specifically for small businesses. She noted that when an agency enters a contract, it must pay for the services provided.

“We want to make sure we are leveraging the buying power of the federal government to ensure fair wages for workers,” Looman said. “Because we are spending dollars on federal contracts, it really is our job to ensure wages are fair.”

In a tweet Monday, the agency said more than half of the workers benefiting from the wage increase order were women, while 25% were Hispanic and 15% were Black. Looman said that while the agency did not have a good estimate of all the workers that may be impacted by the rule, those in the childcare, restaurant and maintenance industries would most likely be impacted in states and localities where minimum wages had not recently increased.

Looman also said the rule could be seen as a “continuation of the evolution of the federal government using its purchasing power to increase wages,” citing former President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive order — and subsequent final rule — raising the federal contractor minimum to $10.10 an hour.

A fact sheet on the rule noted that certain contracts are excluded from the requirements, including grants within the meaning of the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act; certain procurement contracts for construction that are not subject to the Davis-Bacon Act; and certain contracts for services that are exempted from coverage under the Service Contract Act or its implementing regs, among others.

As part of the regs, contractors must meet notice-and-posting requirements by, for example, posting the applicable wage determination in a prominent and accessible place at the worksite, according to the fact sheet.

Future increases to the minimum must be determined by the Secretary of Labor and published at least 90 days before they take effect. The rule further specifies that such increases must be: not be than the amount in effect on the date of determination; increased according to the annual percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers; and rounded to the nearest multiple of $0.05.

ABC Responds to Biden Administration Federal Contractor Minimum Wage Increase

Originally posted on https://www.randrmagonline.com

Associated Builders and Contractors released the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s final rule increasing the minimum wage on federal contracts from $10.95 to $15 per hour beginning in early 2022, superseding a scheduled increase to $11.25 that will occur on Jan. 1.

“Most of ABC’s federal contractor members already pay the vast majority of their workers at wage rates higher than the $15 per hour minimum established in this rule,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “However, ABC is concerned with the Biden administration’s decision to ignore Congress’s authority and not establish a market-driven approach to wage determination. This rulemaking will create unnecessary confusion and needlessly increase the compliance burden on ABC member contractors that build America’s infrastructure and perform other federal or federally assisted work.”

On Aug. 27, ABC submitted comments to the DOL in response to this proposed rule.

Passage of Partisan Reconciliation Bill Harmful to U.S. Economy, Construction Industry, Says ABC

Originally posted on https://amerisurv.com

Washington, Nov. 19—Associated Builders and Contractors released the following statement on today’s passage of the partisan reconciliation bill by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This partisan, reckless tax and spending bill would devastate the U.S. economy, further exacerbate supply chain and inflation woes, and impose dangerous tax hikes and restrictive labor policies that harm the 87.3% of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a union,” said Michael Bellaman, ABC president and CEO. “This bill would make it difficult for small contractors to stay in business, hire new workers and provide competitive pay and benefits for their employees. ABC encourages the Senate to reject the House’s reconciliation bill and work to support commonsense policies that will benefit our economy and create jobs throughout the country.”

Labor Agreements Harm Non-union Workers: ABC

Associated Builders and Contractors said a new report highlights the negative economic impact of government-mandated project labor agreements on nonunion construction workers, who it said comprise 87.3 percent of the construction industry workforce. The study found that the limited number of nonunion craft professionals permitted to work on construction projects subject to a government-mandated PLA suffer an estimated 34 percent reduction in wages and benefits.

“If PLAs were imposed on a significant percentage of federal construction work, hundreds of millions of dollars of compensation would be taken from nonunion workers and distributed to union pension funds and union benefits programs, which do not benefit nonunion workers,” wrote John McGowan, retired professor of accounting at Saint Louis University, who authored the study, “Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements Result in Lost and Stolen Wages for Employees and Excessive Costs and Liability Exposure for Employers.”

The report also found that PLA mandates unnecessarily increase nonunion contractors’ wage and benefits costs by an estimated 35 percent and expose firms to the risk of costly multiemployer pension plan liability, according to ABC.

“These additional costs make nonunion contractors less competitive with respect to price compared to firms without such duplicative benefits costs, which is likely to discourage nonunion contractors from competing for taxpayer-funded construction contracts,” according to the study.

“This study highlights what we have long known, but that lawmakers continue to ignore or fail to understand when they require or encourage anti-competitive and costly project labor agreement schemes on taxpayer-funded construction projects,” said Ben Brubeck, VP of regulatory, labor, and state affairs for ABC, in a prepared statement. “Government-mandated PLAs are bad public policy because they effectively exclude the nearly 9 out of 10 U.S. construction workers who freely choose not to join a union by holding a third of employees’ compensation for ransom unless they join a union, pay union fees and prop up struggling union pension plans. PLAs also create excessive cost burdens and risks for quality nonunion contractors, which built more than half of the federal government’s large-scale construction projects during the past decade and are more likely to be small, women- and/or minority-owned businesses.

“Research has demonstrated that government-mandated PLAs increase construction costs by 12 percent to 20 percent, which results in less new construction and fewer improvements to roads, bridges, utilities, schools, affordable housing and clean energy projects—and the creation of fewer jobs,” said Brubeck. “PLAs steer contracts to unionized contractors and workers at the expense of the best quality nonunion contractors and workers who want to compete fairly to rebuild America at a price that is best for taxpayers.”

Source: ABC

Construction’s career crisis: Can the industry attract millennials and Gen Z?

By Ryan Golden (Reporter) | Originally posted on www.constructiondive.com

Younger workers want flexibility and higher pay, and the industry is trying a variety of tactics to recruit them.

Construction employment carries with it a perception that the work does not pay well or is more likely to be affected by an economic downturn than other fields.

These fears are not entirely unfounded, said Priya Kapila, compensation practice leader at FMI Corp., a consulting and investment banking firm that works with clients in construction, engineering and similar sectors. Historically, contractors sought to control costs in part by leaning on lower base salaries, particularly for entry-level positions, and making up for it with bonuses, she said.

Layoffs that occurred in tandem with downturns such as the mid-2000s recession further the narrative. “There’s an inherent challenge of business cycles,” Kapila said. “Even today, we’ve seen people exit the industry who are less inclined to come back.”

That does not play well with a generation of workers who are looking for economic stability, she added. But Kapila noted that construction’s reputation as a low-paying industry is not entirely deserved. Particularly for construction management graduates, FMI’s research has shown the industry offers competitive pay compared to other sectors. And with a competitive talent market that has led companies across industries to increase wages, “you can’t get away with low pay,” Kapila said.

Other sources echoed that thought. “If you’re a drywall contractor and looking for people, drywall finishing is a skill … you can’t just take someone from off the street,” said Brent MacDonald, an instructor in construction management at Indiana State. “You have to train them to be a drywall finisher and pay them accordingly. And now that we have this competitive talent market, you can no longer pay someone $13 an hour.”

Figuring flexibility out

It is not just about pay, however. During the pandemic, many companies adjusted operations to accommodate more flexible ways of working, including fully-remote and hybrid work. The in-person nature of construction work, at odds with home-based work, may have a mixed impact on recruiting efforts.

“People are re-evaluating their inputs or qualities for quality of life,” said Paul Crovella, an assistant professor at the State University of New York’s College of Environment Science and Forestry who specialises in sustainable construction. Crovella noted that while the pandemic may not have reduced overall interest in construction industry careers, it also may have led to a desire for a way of working that places less emphasis on in-person elements. Some students see the prospect of spending time on job sites as a positive. “For those individuals, it’s akin to leaving your office and being able to work across the factory floor.”

Flexibility is “still something that the industry is trying to figure out,” Kapila said. But the incentive to pursue it is there for employers, she added, particularly because employees in their early 20s may place less value on retirement benefits, profit sharing and other areas that contractors have traditionally advertised to candidates. “You have to really give thought to the total package when you’re approaching candidates and think about which components might matter most.”

Even before the pandemic, construction industry analysts acknowledged that conflict in expectations between younger workers and the job sites that sought their labor. In a 2016 report by Marcum LLP, researchers Anirban Basu and Joseph Natarelli wrote that millennial employees as a group demonstrated a preference for jobs with flexible work hours. But that expectation “isn’t consistent with the bulk of construction activity,” the authors said.

At Cincinnati-based Messer, remote work implies a cultural question. “How are we any different from the folks building the buildings?,” said Nick Apanius, the company’s senior vice president in charge of HR and professional development operations, adding that even the company’s employees who could work mostly from home have demonstrated a desire to be with their teams in-person and see job sites for themselves. “We think people need to be in the office, and I know that’s a challenge.”

But Messer has implemented flexible work guidelines over the years, even for those who perform in-person operations, he added. That can be particularly important during the pandemic, when workers need to take care of elderly parents, children or other dependents.

Appealing to Gen Z, millennial values

The challenge of marketing construction to young workers may seem daunting at first glance, experts say.

“If you put a hammer in their hands before an iPhone, you might have a chance,” quipped Donald “Bo” McNabb, senior instructor in construction management at Indiana State University’s College of Technology, when asked how contractors could drum up more interest in the field. “That’s what they’re competing with.”

A number of sources suggested that employers need to appeal to potential workers earlier in their lives. Casey Welch, CEO of Tallo, an employment and scholarship platform geared toward younger workers, noted that this process can start well before students graduate from high school. “The best place to get that talent is to start to build it,” he said. “If you want to get them, get to them early and get to them often.”

External groups can play a part in those efforts. MacDonald talked about one initiative supported in part by the Wabash Valley Contractors Association, a local trade group, to implement an exhibit this past summer at a local children’s museum. The exhibit allows visiting kids to explore hands-on activities such as drawing, welding and assembling.

Such initiatives could encourage the next generation of workers to “drop the phone and pick up something real,” to borrow MacDonald’s phrasing, but not all outreach is guaranteed to be successful. He relayed his experience presenting to students at a local middle school. MacDonald said he tried but perhaps failed to help students connect their everyday experiences to construction.

A robust recruitment toolbelt

For more recent graduates or even those already in the workforce, construction work carries an entrepreneurial element that could have its own appeal, according to Welch. That some who enter the industry end up opening their own businesses may offer something to financially prudent younger workers that other career paths may not, he said.

Other sources supported this idea. Younger workers have “grown up in a period of debt crisis,” Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors told Construction Dive, leading to concerns that college alone will not guarantee them a prosperous future. That could breed interest in the possibilities that fields like construction can provide.

“For instance, many electricians start their own firms, same thing with plumbers and roofers, so on and so forth,” Basu said. “And they might find that appealing as well. So there’s hope out there, but there has to be a coherent sustained effort by the industry to reach out to these prospective demographics.”

The pandemic presents “a terrifying climate to start your adult life and professional life in,” said Isabel Perez, a recruiter at Messer. “Younger workers, she added, “want to work for a company that makes them feel like part of the team, that helps them grow.”

Perez, who said she is still early in her career and did not originally consider a job in the construction industry while in college, believes that the worker-owned structure of Messer played a big role in her decision to join the company. “We all have a stake in the game, [and] everyone is here to lift each other up, to help you grow,” she continued. “I knew that was where I wanted to go. That was the most important thing to me.”

Technology also can be a tool in recruiters’ utility belts. Apanius noted the influx of investment in construction technologies, particularly into artificial intelligence systems that allow engineers to plan projects virtually before they head out into the field. “How we build buildings now is very different from 20 years ago,” he said.

Construction employers may look to how other industries dealing with similar shortages have changed their recruiting strategies. Welch touted Tallo’s work with the trucking industry to implement gamification into recruiting applications. He has also seen trucking companies highlight immersive technologies, such as virtual reality, that can give prospective candidates a better idea of the work they would need to perform.

Crovella had a similar thought. Contractors, he said, “have the chance to use some of the same immersive technology that has fascinated this generation in other areas.” He noted a plethora of examples of companies using VR to simulate welding and other critical skills.

A few sources noted that while these and other strategies may not always land, construction work has advantages that few other industries can boast.

“What we do isn’t for everybody,” Apanius said. “But at the end of the day, you can look behind you and look at what you created from nothing.”

Tangibility. That’s another passion driving industry veterans.

“You want to be able to drive by something and say, ‘I had a hand in building that,'” MacDonald said. “You can’t do that as an accountant working on budgets.”

Construction Dive Associate Editor Zachary Phillips contributed to this report.

Four Ways To Create Meaningful Connections With Next-Generation Hires

By Scott Casabona (Forbes Councils Member) | Originally posted on www.forbes.com

Scott Casabona is the President of Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance.

With baby boomers retiring at an accelerated pace since the pandemic began, many employers are scrambling to find skilled talent. This mass exodus is creating the need for companies to rethink the way they approach recruiting and hiring. But the old ways of recruitment don’t always resonate with younger demographics like Generation Z.

This challenge is especially daunting for industries such as manufacturing and construction. I’ve seen firsthand how the construction industry has been impacted by the record numbers of experienced talent leaving the workforce. In 2021 alone, construction companies will need to hire 430,000 more workers than they employed this past year, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Associated Builders and Contractors. In any year, let alone one where we are still fighting a global pandemic, finding enough skilled construction workers is a challenge. So how can companies in similar positions attract a new breed of worker to join their teams?

It’s critical to tap into the key elements potential Gen Z employees are looking for in a career, especially those looking for well-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.

1. Focus on corporate social responsibility.

According to a national survey by BBMG and GlobeScan, “By a 5-to-1 margin, Gen Z does not trust business to act in the best interests of society, and nearly one-in-four cannot name a single brand they consider to be purposeful.” Gen Z is also more likely to say businesses should serve their communities and society.

This means they want to align themselves with companies that stand for something, help the communities they serve or take action toward things like climate change and equality. Make sure you emphasize your CSR programs front and center in your digital properties to demonstrate how your employees benefit the broader community through volunteerism and business practices.

2. Bake digital into your recruiting strategy.

Reaching Gen Z requires a digital strategy. These digital natives live online and value experiences over information. It’s critical that companies not only show up on social media but also tell their story on different platforms. Content should answer questions beyond what the company does and what it sells. Gen Z wants to know what it’s like to be a part of your team. They want to know what you stand for and how it feels to play the role you do in the company.

If you can paint the picture with authentic stories through video, images and real-world examples, you’ll be able to reach potential new hires and create meaningful connections before an actual interview.

3. Change outdated industry perceptions.

Technology has changed the game for many industries and helped dispel some of the outdated stereotypes of careers in fields such as construction and manufacturing, which can be seen as physical, dirty and dangerous work. Emphasizing how technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and machine learning are impacting the workplace will resonate with those job seekers for which STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was a foundation of their education.

I’ve found that these early adopters embrace technology and often teach others how to use it effectively. Couple that with more experienced workers sharing their knowledge and insights, and you’re able to foster trust and create strong team dynamics, which spells meaningful engagement for Gen Z.

4. Emphasize stability.

For years, Gen Z has watched older generations struggle to pay off mountains of student loan debt. Then came 2020, with headline after headline reporting mass layoffs and company closures. Yet construction work continued, as the construction industry was deemed “essential.” From my perspective, this notion of what is considered essential work has created a new vision of career options for those looking to prioritize stability in their chosen career path.

For those concerned that skilled trade work is a limited role, focus on the upward mobility the path has to offer. For example, demonstrate how working on a job site and mastering a set of skills can lead to other career opportunities, such as site supervisor, project manager or even business owners.

As more and more baby boomers leave the workforce, and with millennials and Gen X not making up the difference, it’s time to focus on Gen Z. Demonstrating your company values, opportunities for career growth and stability during times of change can go a long way in attracting this audience, especially if you create meaningful content about who you are and not just what you do.

How to Solve the Construction Labor Shortage

By Jordanne Waldschmidt | Originally posted on www.equipmentworld.com

 

Still looking for the proverbial easy button to fill your talent pipeline? We hate to break it to you: there isn’t one.

“If you’re in this industry and not being the biggest promoter of it, you’re part of the problem,” says Benjamin Holmgren, president of Buildwitt Jobs. “You’re not going to solve it for the industry. Solve it for you.”

Holmgren was joined by Natasha Sherwood, executive director of the Independent Electrical Contractors Florida West Coast Chapter, and Steve Cona III, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, in a recent panel discussion led by Autumn Sullivan, director of marketing and experience for Mobilization Funding.

The panel explored the issue of why skilled trade workers are leaving the industry, the impact of culture on recruitment and retention, and what companies can do to increase their talent pipeline.

Recruiting and retaining the next generation

So, can everyone stop blaming millennials already? Continuing to drone on about how millennials lack worth ethic is so 2010. Older millennials, those born in the 1980s, are established and in positions of power in their careers. Where the industry needs to focus its attention is Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

“I don’t believe it’s so much a labor shortage, as a shortage of leaders who know how to lead the next generation,” said Holmgren. “Kids my age want to have a mission to get behind. They want to have a vision. They want to be led, trained and developed.”

The companies that have solved this understand this workforce development crisis is not about millennials. “Taking ownership of solving this for your company is the elixir,” said Holmgren.

Shop class makes its comeback

Getting in front of Gen Z and Gen Alpha starts in school. Trade education in middle school and high school was nearly extinct but is slowly making a comeback. Until there is wider support for the curriculum at a state and district level, getting involved at an individual level is critical.

Construction companies can help through apprenticeships and mentor programs. Contractors involved in mentorship see better hiring success because they already have name recognition with students, panelists said.

“The greatest benefit to our industry would be a solid pipeline out of high school and into the trades,” said Cona. “It has to be a statewide effort in our educational system to promote opportunities in all occupations that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree. The average age of our apprentice is 26-27 years old, and we have to get that lower to 21-22 years old. It can’t be an afterthought.”

Outside of local efforts, Holmgren suggests meeting the younger generation where they are online.

“It’s one thing to put on a trade show or job fair, but what about Instagram? TikTok? One thing you can start doing today is using social media to tell the story of your business and show people what it’s really like to work in your industry. It’s not that you have to make it look cool; the trades are already cool. Come join us – that’s what we need to be telling people.”

Work culture in construction 

Taking ownership of the construction recruitment and retention problem also means taking a hard look at company culture. For better or worse, every company has a culture. How that culture has evolved depends on how it is emulated and nurtured daily.

Work culture has been cited as a major factor in many skilled-trade veterans leaving their employer or the industry entirely. While culture is a hot topic in the construction industry, and often framed as something only young people are pushing for, it has a significant impact on retention across the board.

“You can tell that no matter the age of the employee, they are all looking for a culture that has a family atmosphere, opportunities for advancement, flexible hours and good benefits,” said Sherwood. “I just helped a fourth-year apprentice graduate who had an opportunity to go anywhere. He took a job at a company that paid $2 less an hour because it was a good fit. There’s that level of appreciation that is sometimes more important than the dollar bottom line.”

Alternative talent pipelines

Beyond young people, there are many other viable talent pools and untapped markets to help fill the skilled-worker pipeline. Correctional institutions, foster care systems and the military are just a few options.

“We’re looking for all sorts of avenues to fill that pipeline, and one of those is folks coming out of corrections,” said Cona. “We’re getting asked by state leaders and politicians to work with them to help develop skills while people are still incarcerated. So whenever they get out, they can get plugged back into society. If you can give people opportunities and jobs when they get out of being incarcerated, their chances of going back are very slim.”

“The military does a great job recruiting kids, with ROTC officers and billboard campaigns,” said Sullivan. “The trades need to be seen as a viable option. You can feed your family, you can travel around the country – there’s a lot of opportunity depending on where you want to go with it.”

Continuing education for retention

While there are required continuing education credits in the construction industry, employers should also consider training that provides employees with a path toward a goal they value, such as moving from apprentice to superintendent.

“In this day and age in this economy, you have to invest in training your workforce. There are no unemployed electricians and plumbers sitting on the sideline,” said Cona. “You have to build your pipeline by investing in people who might not necessarily have the skills that you need at that time. Invest in your employees, train them, put them in apprenticeship programs and maintain it through their lifecycle as an employee.”

An engaged employee is someone who stays with you.

Changing the narrative

While the narrative that construction is a dead-end job is a systemic problem, individual companies can start making strides today to reframe the conversation and illuminate the opportunities.

“This country was built because people learned skills, created things and built things. No one can say this country was built because people went to college. That’s what we need to continue to push,” said Cona. “As parents, as an industry, we need to be better at pushing the narrative that this is a viable option.”

“Don’t people get tired of talking about finding good help?” adds Holmgren. “We know you can’t find good help. Do something.”

“I’m not interested in solving the industry’s labor-shortage challenge, but if there is one person who can take something from this and it lights a spark and they can solve it for them, that’s a win.”

Watch the full webinar here.

ABC, CISC Caution OSHA About Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing

By Grading and Excavation Contractor | Originally posted on www.gxcontractor.com

WASHINGTON—Associated Builders and Contractors, a steering committee member of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, released the following statement on CISC’s letter sent today to James Frederick, acting assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, voicing concerns related to OSHA’s forthcoming COVID-19 vaccination and testing Emergency Temporary Standard, which will apply to employers with 100 or more employees as required by President Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan.

“Because OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing ETS is expected to be the most far-reaching standard ever issued by the agency, it is imperative that OSHA listen to input from the construction industry, which employs 7.4 million individuals,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “Despite the efforts of a range of stakeholders, vaccine hesitancy remains an ongoing, complicated reality in countless industries. How the ETS is crafted will have significant, lasting impacts by driving workers away from larger firms and disrupting construction projects without raising the vaccination rate.

“Our key areas of concern are workforce shortages that would be exacerbated by the ETS, employer and employee obligations for vaccinations and testing, paperwork burdens, recordability of adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, cost of paid time off for vaccinations and adverse reactions, and availability of testing kits. The COVID-19 pandemic has already created and accelerated a host of challenges for the construction industry, including a skilled workforce shortage, rising material costs, supply chain disruptions, job site shut-downs, additional health and safety protocols and new government regulations. The forthcoming ETS only adds to this long list of concerns.

“ABC continues to encourage construction industry stakeholders to implement effective COVID-19 safety plans and to get vaccinated because ensuring healthy and safe work environments for employees is a top priority of ABC and its members. ABC is philosophically opposed to federal mandates that undermine the desired policy outcome. ABC plans to be fully engaged in the forthcoming OSHA ETS rule and is evaluating legal options on compliance.”

On Sept. 24, ABC, as a steering committee member of the Coalition for Workplace Safety, also sent a letter to OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary James Frederick, stating that OSHA should consider questions and seek written input from stakeholders before issuing any ETS. To do otherwise invites avoidable implementation challenges and costs that would undermine achieving the goals of the ETS.