Baby boomers currently represent over 40 percent of the construction industry. The shortage of labor workers can be directly linked to the high number of retirements the industry sees and will see in the future. This means that the construction industry is on track to lose 14 percent to 20 percent of specific employment groups. So the next step for this industry is recruiting a new generation of workers: Generation Z. Generation Z is a highly sought after group but there are ways to win them over to the industry. And trust us, you want to do that.
Call it a “nice to have problem” if you like, but most construction firms—from plasterers to plumbers—are worried about where to find the next generation of workers. In fact, it could be hurting your ability to keep pace with demand and grow your business.
With a record-low unemployment rate, it’s no surprise if you’re struggling to find qualified construction workers. You’re not alone. In some parts of the country, it is harder than in others to find construction workers. In December 2019 alone, 211 out of 358 metro areas showed increased employment year-over-year, according to federal employment data.
Where is the Next Generation of Workers?
Today’s skilled labor shortage can trace its roots back to the housing bubble when the industry lost nearly 2 million construction workers. Even as the construction market has come roaring back, many contractors have found it difficult to attract younger workers to replace retiring baby boomers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 11 million employed in the construction industry in 2018. Of those, a scant 1 million are under age 25, meaning the other 10 million are over age 25. The median age of a worker in the construction industry today is 42.5 years.
With baby boomers representing more than 40 percent of today’s construction workforce, the current shortage can be linked directly to the high number of boomers retiring daily. At this rate, the construction industry could lose between 14 percent and 20 percent of specific employee groups, including executives, senior managers, field managers, and project managers, over the next five years.
Contractors Need Generation Z
With construction backlogs running nearly nine months, there is a strong demand for all positions—from craft workers to project managers and estimators. Whether trying to attract Generation Z (born after 1997) and millennials (born between 1981-1996) or retain Gen X (born between 1965-1980), contractors face a tricky balancing act as they try to accommodate not only millennials and Generation Z, but baby boomers and Gen X workers, too.
At 61 million, Gen Z is the most populous generation since the boomers. It is predicted that more than 20 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of this generation by the end of 2020. As they come of age, Generation Z is becoming a highly sought-after group that the construction industry can no longer afford to ignore.
So, how do you find, attract, train, and retain this group? Gen Z has much in common with their older-siblings—the millennials. But you will still need to understand what makes these younger employees tick.
What Generation Z Wants
With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age daily, experts say you should keep in mind the following about this generation:
- They value workplace flexibility and like to blend their personal and professional lives.
- They are very entrepreneurial and competitive and like to push themselves independently.
- They are very oriented toward salary and security as they seek to make better self-directed financial decisions.
For example, your construction firm could outline how these younger workers can move from entry-level apprentice to journeyman to lead man to foreman to general foreman and then to superintendent. This generation would likely welcome a clear career trajectory plan.
Using Tech to Attract Gen Z
One of the things this generation has in common with millennials is their love of technology. As the first true digital natives, Gen Z can’t recall a time before the internet. Practically born with a smartphone or device in their hands, Generation Z views tech as their go-to solution.
While the construction industry has been slow to adopt technology, new technology is having a moment—from BIM software to drones to wearables to virtual reality and 3-D modeling. This type of tech is key to attracting Gen Z job seekers and increasing their interest in construction jobs. But don’t expect your young employees to hang around if you’re not willing to evolve and integrate your tech toolbox.
You should also understand Gen Z’s love of mobile technology. This generation will expect to use mobile apps to manage their daily lives for everything from timecards to project management. If your firm is still using paper, colored pencils, and fax machines, you will likely have a hard time attracting Gen Z.
No matter the size of your construction business or trade, odds are you will need a hiring strategy when it comes to attracting, finding, and retaining the right talent. If you’re under pressure to improve your hiring process, be sure to download the 2019 How to Hire a Great Estimator Guide now for great in-depth, real-world hiring best practices.