Ease the Pain of The Construction Labor Shortage: What You Can Do

04 December 2019

There’s a labor shortage of construction workers around the globe. 

This low supply of those in the construction industry is even resulting in countries relaxing employee work permits. 

In Ireland, for example, non-European workers in the construction sector are now included in the visa work permits to boost the construction sector labor supply and ease the pain of construction labor shortage.

Many are wondering what more can be done to encourage workers to both enter and return to the industry.

How do you get millennials into construction?

Do women see construction as an industry they’re welcome to enter

Stephen Hoban, Associate Director of Construction, Property and Engineering, at Azon Recruitment Group shares, “A lot of people think it’s men in hard hats, high vis and concrete bricks…but in reality, the industry has moved on and transformed into so much more. There’s off-site construction, modular building, BIM and software packages being used on these sites that people don’t know about.”

BIM helping labor shortage


Why is there a labor shortage?

Remember the recession? To some of us it seems like just yesterday. To others, a bad dream. 

During this financial crisis, 1.5 million jobs were lost in construction. Like many other industries, construction was hit hard. Many walked away from their jobs and never returned–leaving a major gap in the workforce years later, resulting in the current construction labor shortage.

And while many of the baby boomers working in the industry are beginning to retire, there’s also not enough young workers in training to support the industry. 

labor shortage

Construction has the biggest ratio in unemployment to vacancy

A study held by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, concluded that the construction industry now holds the biggest ratio in unemployment to vacancy. This year (2019), JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) data verified that the US labor shortage in the construction industry is short of 350,000 workers.

The average age of a construction worker in the US is now approaching 43, rising at a faster pace than it has in recent years. The experience and knowledge held by these workers could soon be lost.

4 ways to help with construction labor shortage

“Only by attracting new workers—young people, women, immigrants, military vets—will the industry be able to keep pace with the growing demand for new construction and new home services.” –Contractor Magazine

It’s also worth understanding how to encourage older, skilled workers to remain at their job for as long as possible. 

1. Do in-house apprenticeships programs

The vocational careers and trades that require apprentices are in demand. From 2012 to 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth for these industries: Construction trades workers are predicted to have a 22% growth.

The Labor Department Website states that each year 150,000 employers and labor management organizations participate in registered apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships make it possible for aging workers to train young people to learn their skills, passing on their knowledge on to the next generation. 

Because young workers can take a longer time to train and are more likely to drop out, extra support should be available if possible. You should also recognize that apprentices are typically paid from the time that training begins, and that a permanent position is likely to be offered when finished. This payment and job security likely makes this work more appealing for young workers, hopefully coping with the labor shortage.  

women filling gap in labor shortage


2. Let women know they are welcome and why

Apprenticeships are more popular with men than women; in 2016, women only accounted for 3% of apprentices in construction; with most working behind the desk, in design, management or administrative roles.

But despite the labor shortage, lack of women in the industry and age-old stereotypes, the construction industry is better than others when it comes to the gender pay gap:

“Women in the construction workforce earn approximately 95.7% of what men earn. That’s far better than other industries.”

Highlight how your organization is inclusive of women by providing equal pay and learn how women are treated differently on the job site. Become aware of how you can improve the culture on your own site to be more welcoming. 

Still lost on where to start and cope with the labor shortage? Make sure women feel safe while at work and recognized for the quality of work they do.

3. Retraining workers from other industries

Workers from other industries who have important skills are a great resource. 

A great example is veterans. Approximately 250,000 leave military service each year, ready to find work in another industry such as construction, another way of dealing with the shortage of labor.

Former Air Force carpenter, Ron Olsen, is now president of the construction management firm Vanguard Construction Co. Inc. With the goal of hiring army veterans, he states:

“From what I experienced in my years as active duty and another 15 years working solely on government contracts, (veterans) are more motivated, better educated, have more hands-on experience and are extremely disciplined. You couldn’t ask for a better workforce.”

Skansa USA sets a good example; they sponsor and attend national veteran career fairs and run a specific military recruitment campaign. 

using online orientations for labor shortage

4. Advanced onboarding to win back wasted time

What is the most boring task on the job site?


Workers and managers waste hours completing their site orientation and qualification.  

Allowing workers to complete orientations online, from anywhere, creates a more flexible work site. 

By providing orientations online, you give construction workers hours back into their day– to spend more time with family and break ground faster. 

What are you waiting for?

With GoContractor, workers take their orientation online before they arrive on-site, resulting in a safer and more efficient worksite. It’s the orientation hack top construction companies love.

Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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