Recruiting and Retaining a Qualified Labor Force in the Construction Industry: What to Strive for and Consider

AuthorBy Erin Ebeler
THE CONSTRUCTION LAWYER14 Volume 42 Issue 2 2022
Recruiting and Retaining a Qualif‌ied
Labor Force in the Construction
Industry: What to Strive for and
In August 2019, the Associated
General Contractors of Amer-
ica (AGC) released a study in
cooperation with Autodesk that
revealed that 80 percent of con-
struction rms have a hard time
lling hourly craft positions.
such positions represent the bulk
of the construction workforce,2
AGC’s Chief Executive Ofcer
Stephen E. Sandherr has stated that “[w]orkforce short-
ages remain one of the single most signicant threats to
the construction industry.”3 In 2019, AGC has noted that
the vast majority of rms believe that “it will continue to
be hard, or get even harder, to nd hourly craft workers
over the next 12 months.”
Little did those rms know
that COVID-19 would ravage America’s worksites just
months later and bring a new set of labor force challenges
to the jobsite.
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as an eye-opening
reminder to the construction industry of the challenges
associated with attracting, retaining, and safely managing
a dependable workforce. But what is causing labor short-
ages, and how can it be addressed? Prior to COVID-19,
topping the list for most rms responding to the AGC’s
2019 survey were concerns relating to the quality of the
recruitment pipeline and an increasing percentage of mari-
juana use among laborers.
These stafng challenges led
to project delays, increased costs, and upward bid adjust-
ments to account for such likely events.6
The AGC’s proposed response to the labor shortage
includes funding requests to the federal government for
career and technical education, increased construction-
related immigration, grants for community or career
college students, and making it easier for rms to establish
training programs.
This article offers practical guidance on
recruiting and retaining a robust workforce while still com-
plying with a company’s legal obligations and limitations.
I. Developing Interest in the Construction Trades
The early 2000s saw a relentless push for high school gradu-
ates to attend a traditional, four-year college and pursue a
career in corresponding elds; presently, the labor surplus
in those industries and debilitating student loan debt have
steered many Gen Z students to less-traditional career
paths. These so-called new-collar9 workers are trained
through community colleges, vocational schools, techni-
cal certication programs, high school technical education,
and on-the job apprentices and internships.
Now more
than ever, the construction industry should make a con-
certed effort to draw these young workers into the fold.10
To do so, rms should consider collaborating with local
educational institutions and developing programs inter-
nally for internships and/or apprenticeships.
A. Reaching High School Students
Though some programs shoot for an even younger demo-
graphic,11 high school students represent an ideal market
for construction industry recruitment. The AGC identi-
es three primary approaches to high-school recruitment
Charter Schools
As an alternative to a standard high school experience,
some communities have developed charter schools focused
on preparing students for a career in the construction
industry. For example, the Academy for Career Educa-
tion in Nevada teaches high school students “skills for
today’s professional careers in construction, engineering,
transportation, mining, and manufacturing through inte-
grated academics with a focus on workplace readiness”12
The school offers four primary programs: Building Trades;
Advanced Machining and Manufacturing Technology;
Diesel Technology; and Architectural, Landscape Archi-
tecture, and Residential Design.
On the engineering side
of the construction industry, P-TECH (Pathways in Tech-
nology Early College High School) programs across the
country similarly provide a leg up to students interested
in the trade. The agship P-TECH school was started by
IBM in Brooklyn almost a decade ago offering as follows:
As part of its six-year program, students take traditional
high school classes and also get workplace training, inten-
sive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
classes, and college courses. Though many high schools
across America offer challenging Advanced Placement
(AP) classes for college credit, what sets P-TECH apart is
Erin Ebeler

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT