Builders Get Creative to Attract Construction Talent

Workers looking down at a crane from a building under construction

Construction — long prized by workers as the industry where jobs can’t be automated or relocated — is experiencing a continuing labor shortage that is resonating throughout the U.S. economy.  Construction spending for 2017 is expected to grow 5-8 percent, and as work volume continues to increase, labor demand is reaching critical levels. Among construction companies, 73 percent say they are having a hard time finding qualified workers, according to a 2017 survey by Associated General Contractors of America. How can employers remain competitive in this environment?

Beyond traditional methods such as increasing wages (in fact, average hourly earnings in construction increased 3.2 percent between January 2015 and January 2016 to $28.52 an hour), companies are also looking to new strategies.

Some enterprising employers are paying relocation fees or per diem costs to attract top-quality workers with the most in-demand skill sets, said Parke Jacquay, Aerotek director of Strategic Sales, Energy & Construction. They’re finding the investment worthwhile in securing craft labor, such as electricians, plumbers, pipefitters and carpenters, as well as technical specialists like architects, designers, engineers and senior-level construction management.

“Every employer ideally wants to hire someone local due to the inherently lower cost,” noted Jacquay. “But the increased competition for skilled labor means that the talent pool in high-demand major metropolitan areas just isn’t sufficient. So they have a need to bring in talent from outside.” Working with a national recruitment partner like Aerotek makes it easier to source and engage talent willing to relocate temporarily or permanently for a new job.

Other strategies Jacquay has seen include increases in base compensation above the average rates and project-completion bonuses. Longer-term plays include investing in skills development programs, such as partnering with vocational schools to create training programs in order to increase the talent pool.

Is there any relief predicted on the horizon for the industry? According to Jacquay, there is. He points to a renewed investment in trade schools, vocational training and apprenticeships. In 2016, the federal government earmarked $90 million in funding to expand apprenticeship in the United States. Increasing future-oriented pipelines like this will help builders continue to find the talent they need.

Top in-demand craft labor skill sets

  • Construction Laborers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers
  • Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
  • Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
  • Painters, Construction and Maintenance
  • Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers
  • Highway Maintenance Workers
  • Sheet Metal Workers

Source: EMSI, February 2017