Where does one start? How about right around 7,500 B.C. when individuals in Jordan began using a form of plaster on interior walls? The Egyptians followed with the pyramids, then the Greeks, the Romans, and the many ensuing advancements that have brought us here today.
For some, the period a decade ago coined the Great Recession is still a memory, but for others just entering the profession, it’s a couple pages of historical text. The construction industry itself is seeing significant growth. Every couple of months there’s another report highlighting positive news. Despite all of these gains, a survey conducted by AGC in 2018 shows 80 percent of respondents are finding it difficult to fill positions. These figures may be staggering but it’s further proof that highly lucrative employment opportunities exist.
If the positions exist, why aren’t they being filled? The million-dollar question equally has as many answers. One such possibility is the emphasis being placed on high school students to attend and graduate from 4-year colleges. Many high school seniors are being told the same thing, go to college and get a degree. Well before reaching the senior year of high school, students will likely enter a shop class, sew a pillow, and even take a career placement exam. Results will likely stem from teacher to hotel manager. But how often do these results really matter? Not often. However, if these results were to reference a trade in the years to come, the student might be directed toward an extra shop class (if they exist) or a trade school program. These exercises could be used to greatly shape a student’s future.
Core requirements such as math and science demand a place in education, but so should trade skills—especially for those seeking the opportunity. Where have the days of shop class and other life skills gone? In some cases, if these career paths aren’t handed down from family members, they may be overlooked until career decisions are already in place.
Although the question remains, how do you motivate people or even notify them that positions exist in this craft? Especially, if the craft isn’t being included in early stages of education.
Why join the trowel trades?
The easiest place to start is answering the simple question of why should someone join the field? Whether it’s the demand, the fact that you look good in a hard hat, or the desire to use your skills to create eye-popping pieces of art.
For those interested in becoming a plasterer or craftsman, how about a strong compensation package that includes benefits? A recent article in the Miami Herald pointed out that jobs that were going unfilled were paying salaries around $75,000 including benefits and a pension. This might not be the case in your area, but the availability of positions certainly are. At the EIFS Industry Members Association, several contractors have noted the need to turn-down work with the lack of skilled labor to achieve the task.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 70 percent of contractors are finding it difficult to find skilled help. “Association officials said that many firms are changing the way they operate, recruit and compensate, but cautioned that chronic labor shortages could have significant economic impacts absent greater investments in career and technical education.”
Turning down work that pays more than $50,000 a year, and doesn’t require a college degree? With job openings, no degree requirements, competitive compensation packages, and the availability of training, what are people waiting for?
The search for skilled labor doesn’t seem to be coming to a close anytime soon, so it’s time for everyone to act collectively. The story isn’t just about job openings and competitive salaries, but it’s also about the position itself. Individuals in the trowel trades have the opportunity to paint a picture that’s full of promise, in the most honest way this can be done.
A craftsman does have a difficult and time-consuming job. It can be exhausting and even take months to show a finished product. As was already mentioned, plastering has been in use for thousands of years. For some, the idea is outdated.
So, what do we do?
Targeting a Younger Generation
We must create innovative and outside the box ideas for attracting individuals to the field. Attracting new individuals is just as important as showcasing existing employees and their never-ending commitment.
The alternative to the college approach is shortsighted and likely too late in the process to gain any interest from teenagers. Instead, collaborating with shop classes, trade programs, and early high school career fairs should be the start. Career placement exams occur long before graduation, and so should efforts to attract students toward a profession in a trade.
For the new generations entering the workplace, think about what they can bring to the table. Tap into the negatives we’ve all heard about and allow them to help advance your business. If it’s a concern over social media use, challenge them to look into new ways of promoting your message with a new host of customers.
Looking at our own Workforce
As we target a younger generation, we should highlight success stories. We must all go beyond the idea that the younger generation is going to come from our own kitchen tables. They won’t all be second, third, or fourth generation plasterers. For starters, survey your company to find out why your workforce chose the profession. What motivates that group and keeps them in the industry?
How did you get to where you are today? If you’re proud of your path, it’s one you should share. What education did you seek out, what skills did you learn, and what would you recommend to someone asking all of these questions? You can personally help to create a successful path for the next generation because you’ve already taken it.
Partnering with others
There are multiple associations and organizations doing their part to add more skilled labor to the workforce. The Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association are actively training plasterers, while Helmets to Hardhats is actively working to transition active-duty military service members to the construction industry. The EIFS Industry Members Association (EIMA) is working to promote all of these opportunities on a webpage that seeks to assist in addressing this issue.
As these organizations create promotional materials, it may prove helpful to distribute them throughout your own business network.
So, what next? In short, the entire construction industry is continuing to evolve. It’s not something that has all of a sudden started to occur, but for those who have endured several years in the field, the last decade has shown some challenging times. The benefit for your messaging to a younger generation is that they are far less familiar with the economic downturn of 2008. At this point, it’s just another chapter in a history book. For others, paint the picture for why you have pride in your profession. Why should they join you, and how can they make it a successful career path?
The only thing left to do is grab your hard hat, work boots, and toolbox, because the next great project is at your fingertips. It’s time to become a craftsman! W&C