The Hardest Jobs to Fill in Construction
9 March 2023Architecture and Engineering, autodesk, Autodesk Construction Cloud, Connected Construction, Construction, Digital Transformation, Fabrication, MEPcompetitive advantage, culture, labor shortages, skilled trades
Countless studies show demand for construction work remains high in the marketplace. A GoConstruct.org article stated there is a lot of pent up demand in the industry, resulting in a high demand for construction workers. The work is out there, but the number of qualified workers isn’t meeting the demand. Fewer and fewer new workers are joining the industry, and retention is declining as experienced workers are retiring.
According to survey results published in 2022 by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk, over a quarter of companies reported the size of their workforce decreased in 2022, and 93% had open positions. The expectation is that the shortage of labor for construction jobs is not likely to ease soon – 91% of contractors had trouble filling open positions in 2022.
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Skills in Demand
About 77% of companies reported they are having trouble hiring because available candidates are not qualified, whether that is a lack of skills or the inability to pass a drug test or other prerequisite. An article in ConstructionDive stated there are 25% more construction opportunities available than qualified people to fill them.
The AGC report listed the following skilled positions and the percentage of companies that are finding it hard to fill them:
- Bricklayers (82%)
- Carpenters (85%)
- Cement masons (79%)
- Concrete workers (87%)
- Drywall and other materials installers (83%)
- Electricians (79%)
- Glaziers (70%)
- Heavy equipment operators (83%)
- Iron workers (85%)
- Laborers (76%)
- Mechanics (87%)
- Millwrights (82%)
- Painters (77%)
- Pipefitters/welders (85%)
- Pipelayers (89%)
- Plumbers (82%)
- Roofers (78%)
- Sheet metal workers (78%)
- Traffic control (73%)
- Truck drivers (86%)
Besides experience in the trades, other positions challenging to fill are those that require leadership. While salaried positions like architects and engineers are easier to fill, the survey found 81% of companies still struggled to find project managers and supervisors; 77% had trouble hiring estimators.
As a further complication, although the work is out there, contractors may not feel confident bidding on a job if they think they may not find enough workers to complete the work.
The trends for 2023 and beyond seem to indicate that this labor gap will haunt the industry for years to come. In the competitive arena of the workforce, following are suggestions:
- Develop a strong culture: Construction companies may need to find creative ways to keep employees satisfied. Utilizing technology – Autodesk Build, Takeoff, BIM Collaborate, or Docs, for example – can enable smoother workflows, which is attractive to current and potential employees.
- Welcome new hires: Newly hired workers are likely to stick around longer when they have proper orientation to the company’s culture, goals, vision, values, and structure. They should receive training promptly if it’s needed for their duties. A platform like Autodesk Construction Cloud, with powerfully simple tools, can make their work responsibilities easier and streamline the process of escalating, investigating and resolving questions.
- Remain competitive: Hourly rates, benefits and other perks should remain competitive with the industry. Perhaps workers can have input into benefits they prefer. Some companies budget for professional development to enhance career paths for craft workers.
The critical shortage of workers and potential managers means workers need to be recruited, trained and then retained. Most companies are aware they need online strategies for reaching potential employees. And this corroborates the silver lining uncovered by the AGC survey: most newer employees are prepared with the technology skills they need when they get hired.
This is good news for an industry where technology is a strong contender as one of the ultimate solutions to the skilled labor shortage.
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