Skilled labor is harder to come by when hiring for new construction projects. As a consequence of the decrease in construction employment following 2007, many workers have moved on to other job sectors that are less labor-intensive with better job security. However, where does this leave the construction industry?
How Did the Skilled Labor Shortage Happen?
2007 marked the beginning of a recession in the United States. When the housing-market bubble burst, there were significantly less construction projects available for workers to find reliable income. As a result, many turned to other occupations.
During the recession that lasted from 2007 to 2009, there were significant declines in employment for the construction industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics from the United States Department of Labor reported a decrease of 13.7% of construction jobs. Out of all occupations, the construction industry suffered the most during the recession. After the recession, many skilled laborers were reluctant to rejoin the construction industry after its previous economic instability.
Where Are We Now?
The construction industry is steadily recovering, increasing the need for skilled labor, which is often found within older populations. The average construction worker is around 40 years old. While we agree that a worker’s health and stamina are important factors when determining if they’re hirable, we still need to find new ways to replenish the depleted job force with younger blood. In other words, future growth of the construction industry depends on restoring the skilled labor work force.
Current workers that are in their forties or older are having difficulty finding jobs due to their age. A possible solution might be to provide opportunities for the aging construction worker population to pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generation.
How Can We Encourage New Workers to Enter the Construction Industry?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends what they call “productive aging”. Essentially this strategy allows older workers who are getting ready to retire to teach some of their skills to younger workers who are just entering the job force.
Investing in the next generation is always a good business strategy, especially when it incorporates the wisdom of older workers who are familiar with the industry and the skills of the trade. When young workers are eased into the flow of construction projects under the tutelage of a more experienced worker, this helps create a collaborative learning environment. Positive work environments are attractive to young people looking to start their careers in construction.
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