“It’s dirty and low-paying.”
“It’s unsafe and there aren’t any benefits.”
These are just a few of the words and phrases used to describe the construction industry, and for good reason. For far too many years those entering the profession were treated as permanent entry-level workers in unsafe environments with no ability to make a decent living or move up the ladder.
While it is unfortunate that so many companies must suffer the consequences of a few bad apples, it is up to us collectively to be a positive force in addressing the things that contribute to negative stereotypes about the industry and push for solutions to increase employee retention and recruitment efforts.
The reality is, skilled-trades and construction have an image problem – one that we created in several layers. The complaints coming in from the field speak to long hours, instability in the availability of work, issues with safety, impossible deadlines, and poor prospects for advancement.
Worker safety has been improving over the years, and every workplace knows that they must follow precautions and guidelines to maintain worker safety. However, the industry also has a responsibility to ensure workers and supervisors are adequately trained, and that work is not handed off to untrained workers, or excessive overtime is demanded in the interest of meeting impossible deadlines.
Per a study by NAHB, the perception of poor working conditions is part of the reason that only three percent of young people are interested in careers in construction trades. However, with a looming shortage of workers in our industry, we need to turn the tide – it’s a time to step up and recognize what employees are looking for in their careers.
An excellent place to start is with a workforce development plan that includes creating benefits that make sense, recruiting new workers, and offering continual training to the existing workforce.
For some workers there is not enough work.
If your company can’t create a portfolio of projects that can keep them invested year-round, other options may be a lower but year-round salary (like school teachers) or partnering with another company that operates in seasons yours does not.
While negative perceptions may be keeping many people from entering the construction trades, there is also a lack of understanding about trades because they are not well highlighted to students in secondary education as compared to traditional four-year colleges. Many people don’t know that it is relatively easy to enter a trade and begin your career with little experience.
While bringing about better offerings and incentives is critical, if your local leaders, schools, and parents don’t know about careers available in the construction trades they will continue to have negative perceptions.
It’s a hard pill to swallow that even in the face of so much technological innovation happening around us we are facing a critical shortage in the workforce. It is crucial to keep in mind that those working in the construction trades are serving a valuable role; a role creating the things we live in, work in, and use for travel. These are real tangible assets that make society function and it is time to recognize the importance of these professions.