Promoting a Career in the Construction Industry to Tackle Skills Shortages

By Jennifer Dawson

Last year was challenging for contractors, with 88% reporting difficulties recruiting skilled workers. The resulting labor shortages led to building companies failing to meet project deadlines or having to turn down work altogether.  While contractors can ask skilled workers to undertake more jobs on site, this is only a temporary solution. For longer-term fulfilment of skilled jobs in the future, the recruitment drive must start at school, where promoting construction as a potential career could engage more young people.  While children are taught the essential skills to become a master carpenter or virtual engineer in the future, enticing workers with additional benefits including health cover could offer a more immediate solution to attracting and retaining skilled workers on current projects.

Developing Necessary Skills At An Early Age

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To remain competitive in the future, construction companies will need today’s school children to fill highly skilled jobs. Children’s interest in STEM subjects is sparked early, and, once  they are given the tools to think critically or interpret scientific data, the idea of working in the construction sector becomes a more attractive career prospect. From the use of math and material science in carpentry to the application of physics in architecture, kids who are well-educated in science can apply their knowledge to a range of skills in the building industry. As well as filling traditional on-site roles such as electrician or quantity surveyor, it is estimated that over two thirds of children about to enter primary school will work in new types of construction jobs  that haven’t even been created yet. Advanced STEM teaching could also prepare these students for a future career in virtual design, building information modeling or steel detailing.

Highlighting the Benefits of a Career in Construction

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As well as needing design engineers, some of the construction industry’s most difficult positions to fill include on-site laborers such as bricklayers, carpenters and plumbers. One reason behind the labor shortages is a lack of awareness about the industry and the roles it provides, resulting in only 3% of 18-25 year olds wanting a job in construction. As well as changing young people’s perception through more positive publicity and early career advice, the offer of better benefits could attract more to the industry. Over 80% of younger workers would prefer extra perks to a pay rise and, in a potentially hazardous job in construction, comprehensive health benefits, adequate vacation days and paid sick leave can make the work seem more  worthwhile. In addition, other initiatives such as mentoring schemes to encourage career development, and the adoption of cutting edge technology, could attract previously hesitant applicants.

As well as providing better benefit packages to deal with immediate labor shortages, longer-term solutions are required. Starting at primary school, young children should be better informed of the benefits of working at any level in the industry, while at the same given the tools to undertake highly skilled jobs in design and engineering that are increasingly required.

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The article was contributed by Jennifer Dawson.

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