A Reset for Construction: Talent

September always feels like a good time for a reset. The busy summer construction season is slowing down some and many routines and schedules change, as a result. Let’s embark on a short blog series, focusing on how to reset business—narrowing in on people and processes. First up, talent.
Construction employment in July remained below the levels reached before the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020 in 36 states, according to an analysis by the AGC (Associated General Contractors of America). From February 2020—the month before the pandemic caused project shutdowns and cancellations—to last month, construction employment increased in only 14 states and was flat in the District of Columbia.
From June 2021 to July 2021, construction employment decreased in 18 states, increased in 30, and was unchanged in Kansas, Tennessee, and D.C. Association officials warned construction employment was being impacted in many parts of the country because of supply chain challenges and growing market uncertainty caused by the resurgent Delta variant. They said new federal infrastructure investments would provide a needed boost in demand and help put more people to work in construction careers.
Perhaps the bigger question is: Will the workers come back? We are seeing the worker shortage rage across many industries—including construction.
Morgan Stanley identifies three key reasons for this. For one, school closures are still a concern, as lack of childcare is still a major driver of shortages, particularly among women. Another factor is many people moved during the pandemic, but many jobs did not. Areas like New York and San Francisco have seen many people leave the cities in droves, but there are still a number of open positions in those areas. Neither the cities nor the “exurbs” seem to have enough of the right type of worker. The solution to both of these challenges is time. Things need to settle a bit before the right workers become available.
However, we might be able to find a good solution to a third reason for the worker shortage: a mismatch between the industries hiring and the workers seeking jobs. A FlexJobs survey shows 48% were frustrated by their search because they weren’t finding the right positions.
Morgan Stanley cites industries like manufacturing and professional services with job openings that are outpacing the number of workers who were initially laid off. Construction wasn’t specifically mentioned, but my guess is it should be—especially once the infrastructure bill brings more jobs and (likely) not enough candidates.
So, what can we do about this? Upskill, reskill, and leverage technology whenever possible. The feature over at Connected World this month focuses specifically on how to navigate automation, intergenerational knowledge transfer, and the future of work. Part of preparing for the future of work will be identifying what skill gaps need to close and who can bridge those gaps—a new generation of talent or existing workers, or both. AI (artificial intelligence) and automation can also help fill in some of the gaps.
Construction needs to make moves now to prepare for the future of work. What steps are your construction company taking today?