Help Wanted: Must Be Skilled, Pain Resistant, Willing to Sweat and Work Long Hours

All, Electrical, Mechanical 1 Comment

Is your firm’s production being held back by a lack of skilled construction labor? If so, you’re not alone. Since 2015, and likely even before that, contractors were feeling the squeeze of completing projects on time and within budget while coping with a shortage of skilled laborers. In August 2018, the Association of General Contractors reported “Eighty percent of contractors report difficulty finding qualified craft workers to hire . . .

As a 2016 Tradesmen International article points out, it seems like there should be plenty of workers looking for jobs, and here’s why:

  1. The industry lost more than two million jobs between 2006 and 2011, so the number of residential construction jobs available is lower today than before 2006. (That’s right around the time Pluto lost its planet status.)
  2. The population hasn’t stopped growing. It increases at a rate of just under 1% per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Employment outlook: 2010-2020,” the labor force is growing at approximately the same rate.

There should be an excess of workers, but that’s not the case. In 2008, when the recession hit the construction industry, many skilled workers found themselves unemployed and decided to get out for good. My 40-something dentist told me he used to work in construction. “It’s cold out there today,” he said (it was 15 degrees outside). “And it’s hard work.” His dad is a plumber, but he didn’t stay in the family business. Instead he’s a mechanic on people’s teeth. (I don’t know . . . faced with that choice, I think I’d actually rather be a plumber.)

It seems word’s gotten out that you have to work hard when you’re in construction. I can’t remember even one time when our boys told us they wanted to do a really hard job so they could wake up with aching joints or maybe come home with a smashed thumb. Most younger workers don’t want to hear about hard work. Heck, who does? But the sense of accomplishment of a skilled trades worker can be an incredible adrenaline rush. You know, when you get everything hooked up and it WORKS! Yet, the vast majority of job seekers are not considering construction as a career option because of that “hard work, blue collar” perception. And unless they’ve grown up around the family HVAC business, they’re usually not skilled either. Fewer and fewer high schools offer shop class, and many students are being encouraged to attend college and get a desk job. This unfortunate reality causes a “narrow talent pipeline.” As older workers retire, the young blood just isn’t there to fill their steel-toed boots. AGC’s 2015 “National Workforce Survey” didn’t paint a rosy picture.

But there is a way that the talent pool can be extended through the use of technology. BIM was just the beginning – visualizing the job and catching problems before they’re built. Time after time, project managers report that’s a huge time saver. Now, imagine advertising for a job prefabricating electrical assemblies in your shop, where it’s warm, and they’re not likely to fall off a ladder and break their ankle in seven places. Imagine a job opening for assembling a piping rack in-house in modular sections that can be sent to the jobsite for a flawless installation. Not only can these complex tasks be automated to save hundreds of hours using eVolve MEP software, those young adult workers just might be interested in running software for your firm or working on inhouse pre-fabrication trades. It’s a matter of adjusting your expectations to mesh with the realities of your industry and labor pool and thinking outside the MEP box.

The potential for building activity is projected to strengthen, and skilled crafts laborers are needed now more than ever. America’s recovery has brought strong regional construction activity, and it could be stronger if the labor force were there to keep projects on schedule and mitigate cost increases. Until more of America’s young adults decide to join the construction industry, adopting eVolve MEP is a way for your BIM-centered firm to cope with the shortage. And when the labor force does make that leap, they can be trained inhouse on digital solutions to become an integral part of the trades team. In its September, 2018 article, “The US Labor Market Is Changing Fast,” Indeed Hiring Lab concludes, “In a tight labor market with fewer candidates overall, employers may struggle to find qualified candidates who precisely fit their requirements.  To fill roles, employers may need to expand on-the-job training or look at applicants they might not have considered in the past.”

If you’d like to explore how BIM with eVolve MEP can revolutionize your firm’s productivity, contact the experts and request a demo today.

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