Talk about worker shortages have hit national news the past few months with many businesses scrambling to staff up to meet demand. But for construction, this is nothing new. The construction industry has been battling a skills and worker shortage for decades and estimates show the industry will need to hire 430,000 construction workers this year and 1 million more over the next two years in order to keep up.
The push toward college over the past generation and the drastic drop in trades offered in high school made recruiting a real challenge for years—but the tides are turning. Millennials in construction are now aged between 25-40 and it’s time to turn our attention to the next wave of workers who do not want debt, care about the environment, and are values-driven. The good news is that the construction industry already checks these boxes and many more.
Here are some tips on how to recruit Gen Z into construction and build out your pipeline for skilled workers.
How to Recruit Gen Z? First, Get Into Schools
Exposure to trades in high school is not only important for solving the low workforce in construction, it’s incredibly valuable to students. It lowers drop out rates and offers options for what comes next, especially for students who know that a traditional 4-year degree isn’t right for them. Trades are less frequently offered as classes than they once were but many schools and teachers are still open to creating opportunities for professionals to visit classrooms and share their experiences. Additionally, think about ways you can connect to students outside of school by offering events that demonstrate what construction work actually looks like and having industry veterans share their stories.
While high school is a critical time to reach prospective employees, don’t leave out college students. Job fairs, networking events, and campus groups are a great way to get in front of young people who are looking for their next step. Consider bringing along one of your younger employees who may have recently graduated to speak on why they chose this path and the benefits it offers.
Lead with Values for Strong Construction Hiring
Generation Z wants to work for companies and industries that match their values and are doing good in the world. Here are some ways you can align with this aspect:
Highlight the ways you’re giving back and get your workers involved. Chances are, your company is already heavily involved in the community. It’s important to showcase that, but there are other ways to let your younger team members get some skin in the game. Consider encouraging suggestions for volunteer opportunities or fundraising events and then letting the person who suggested it drive that effort. Not only will you create a sense of ownership and connection, but it will help younger workers build leadership skills.
Lean into green construction. This industry historically has contributed to pollution and is a huge consumer of resources, but green construction techniques are changing that. For a generation so heavily concerned about the environment, the construction industry is an option for work that can truly make a difference in long-term sustainability.
Highlight technology. Whether you’re using drones to map a construction site, modeling a project with BIM, or conducting virtual trainings, technology is finding a home in construction and that’s important to attracting Gen Z workers.
It’s Not (Only) About the Money
Generation Z wants financial stability and a path to advancement. Of course, salary is an important part of that. But don’t get tripped up by thinking that simply increasing compensation is the way to attract and keep this new generation of workers. The pay is already good—averaging well above minimum wage across the country—and workers don’t have to go into huge amounts of debt to get there. Instead, focus on mentorship and career advancement.
Pair your younger workers with someone who can help them navigate your company and industry. In addition to hands-on training, offer feedback and development opportunities for softer skills like communication, leadership, and teamwork.
Build a path forward. Simply taking the time to understand what new hires are looking for and working with them to develop and achieve learning goals and a path to advancement is a great step. You will benefit from an internal pipeline of skilled-up workers, and your team will benefit from adding tools to their toolboxes.
Recruiting Generation Z means you might need to step out of your construction hiring comfort zone and log on. Gen Z is aged between 6-24 and they expect to be able to find jobs, make connections, and learn about a potential employer online.
Check your online presence. Make sure you’re highlighting your values, what you have to offer, and ways to connect in your online content.
Consider adding social media. Construction is dynamic and interesting, but most people don’t have an accurate picture of what a career in construction would look like. You can use social media to highlight your workers, show what it’s like to actually work on a project, and dig into how construction is evolving through technology.
Let your team recruit for you. Both good and bad experiences get amplified online because this generation is not afraid to share. Happy Gen Zers will help recruit their friends when they enjoy what they do.
The bottom line is that the construction industry offers rewarding jobs with opportunities for advancement, and careers are accessible without acquiring huge amounts of debt. Most importantly, construction workers are happy, making this industry a great fit for Generation Z.
As a family-owned business with deep roots in our community, we prioritize excellence and relationships on all of our projects. If you’re looking for a partner for your next project, contact GALBRAITH today.
Allan Galbraith is co-owner of Galbraith/Pre-Design, Inc. and oversees company operations and strategic planning. He is an accomplished business leader with over 22 years of experience in commercial and industrial construction.