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Construction Firms Are Building More Effective Recruitment Programs To Better Address Labor Shortage

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Construction Firms Are Building More Effective Recruitment Programs To Better Address Labor Shortage
Dwyer PR founder Ryan Dwyer, TDIndustries Senior Vice President New Construction Randee Herrin, Sprig Electric President and Chief Information Officer Mark Mandarelli, McCarthy Building Cos. President Northern Pacific Richard Henry and JLL Senior Vice President Alex Holton during PlanGrid's Construction Summit in San Francisco

Construction firms are rebuilding their recruitment and retention programs not only for more construction management workers, but also craft tradespeople. From looking into new demographics to offering leadership programs, construction companies are more aggressively trying to fill in the gaps left as older workers retire.

Construction unemployment decreased to 4.4% in May, one of its lowest levels on record. Comparatively, construction unemployment was as high as 30% in some regions during the recession.

In 2017, 70% of contractors surveyed by the Associated General Contractors of America said they were having trouble filling hourly craft positions. Labor shortages were more severe in the West, where 75% of contractors said they were having difficulty filling positions. From July 2016 to July 2017, construction employment expanded in 258 out of 358 metros.

One of the biggest challenges for construction in the Bay Area is construction companies like McCarthy Building Cos. are competing with software companies for young engineering talent, McCarthy Building President Northern Pacific Richard Henry said during PlanGrid’s inaugural Construction Summit in San Francisco. To recruit more talent, McCarthy tries to advertise some of the cool projects it works on and casts a wider net, including recruitment from architecture schools around the country.

McCarthy Building also offers a robust internship program where it can get an early look at potential employees and employees can get a look at the company and its opportunities, he said.

“In terms of retention, the younger generations are very impatient. They want to be the presidents of the organization in two years. … But our industry doesn’t move that quickly,” Henry said.

He said one way McCarthy works to address this need is to provide training on the latest and greatest tools and help the young employees understand how they can progress in their careers and how to get to the next role.

“A big part of the business of construction is about leadership, and developing leadership is a big part of our retention program so that folks really understand that they have a career at McCarthy and not just a job paying wages,” Henry said.

Training a New Demographic of Tradespeople

Construction Firms Are Building More Effective Recruitment Programs To Better Address Labor Shortage

TDIndustries primarily views itself as a training organization, especially for craft workers where there is an ongoing shortage, TDIndustries Senior Vice President of New Construction Randee Herrin said during the PlanGrid event. TDIndustries is an employee-owned non-union construction and technology organization.

The organization has been recruiting people who may not have considered construction as a career before, she said. As long as someone has grit and an ability to work, TDIndustries will train and teach them what they need to know, she said. 

Among the groups the organization has been targeting are women. The organization’s first graduating class of female tradeswomen completed training in May and the firm now has 10 on-site female sheet metal mechanics, she said. 

“Reaching out to women is really important,” she said. 

She said the industry has typically only gone after 50% of the population, referring to men, but the other 50% could help some of the industry’s shortages.

Additionally, the industry needs to have strong recruiting efforts out of high school so that students know construction can be a career opportunity with benefits and good wages where people can work with their hands and have the satisfaction of completing a monument, she said. 

These students often want to know how they will be trained, and TDIndustries has created learning journeys and clear job descriptions, so they know what their careers will look like and how to move up in the organization.

Adding more women also improves diversity of team members on a project. Herrin said she is starting to see more diversity with engineers and project managers, but the whole construction industry could benefit from more diversity.

“Diversity is really key,” Herrin said. “There is not a lot of diversity. … You have better projects with different points of view.”