While not all Construction companies struggle to secure skilled professionals, it’s no secret that the industry as a whole is short tens of thousands of workers. A problem that could be made far worse with the fact that over 40% of current industry professionals are set to retire in the coming years. With the country’s population hitting 40M this past summer and the increased demand for new housing and infrastructure, companies need to critically examine potential reasons why the demand for skilled workers surpasses the available supply.
While there are a variety of intricacies as to why some organizations have a more difficult time than others, here’s a high-level glimpse into some of the factors contributing to the overall industry’s ongoing struggle with attracting and retaining talent.
Perception and Image
A significant portion of this challenge can be attributed to the sector’s perception, as the construction field often grapples with misconceptions and an image that falls short of its true reality.
To those not yet involved in the industry, one of the most common misconceptions is that most of the talent in construction is trade-focused, which entails hard labour. While physical exertion is undoubtedly a part of certain construction roles, the industry is far more multifaceted than this. The design, construction, and delivery of projects in our space incorporate several complex disciplines such as design/VDC, estimating, planning/scheduling, commercial/contract/risk management, project controls/coordination/management, supply chain management, etc. These days, we’re also seeing more cutting-edge technology and innovative techniques that influence these disciplines and processes as well.
An additional misconception is that the industry lacks opportunities for career progression. As long-term recruitment professionals in construction and development who have helped industry players continually reach new professional heights, we can confidently say this could not be further from the truth. Like any industry, there are various paths for growth to discover and navigate throughout your career, and it’s just a matter of identifying those opportunities for yourself. For some candid insights into the possibilities for career progression in the industry, our hit industry podcast, Nailed It, features several interviews with notable construction leaders and executives who can speak to the very nature of how they were able to continually climb the ranks and propel themselves (and their teams) further.
The evolving nature of construction projects and technological advancements have also created a skills mismatch. The industry requires professionals with a blend of technical expertise, digital literacy, and adaptable problem-solving skills, yet finding individuals with the right skill set to match the industry’s evolving demands still proves to be a significant challenge.
Building Information Modeling (BIM), drones, and advanced construction software are now integral to the industry. As such, there’s a growing demand for workers who are not only comfortable with these technologies but can also leverage them to optimize project efficiency and quality. The challenge lies in finding individuals who are not only knowledgeable in trades and constructability but also digitally literate and adaptable to new tech-driven methodologies.
In addition to technical and digital proficiency, construction professionals must also possess adaptable problem-solving skills. In an industry that’s prone to unexpected challenges, ranging from weather-related delays to supply chain disruptions, individuals who can think critically, adapt swiftly, and make informed decisions under pressure are invaluable. As projects, building systems, and organizations become more complex, a people-centric mindset is key to solving problems. EQ and soft skills are critical assets that organizations and individuals should be training for just as much as they do with the engineering, contracts, and technology driving the business.
Limited Education and Training
A scarcity of specialized construction education and training programs can be limited in some regions, affecting the pipeline of qualified talent entering the industry. Collaborating with educational institutions, promoting apprenticeship programs, and investing in training initiatives can help bridge this gap and cultivate a skilled workforce.
To combat this issue, construction companies must continue to forge partnerships with educational institutions where these collaborative efforts involve the development of tailored curricula that align with industry needs, ensuring that students receive relevant, up-to-date training and industry insight. By actively engaging with schools, colleges, and vocational training centers, the industry can directly influence the quality of education and ensure that graduates are better prepared to contribute effectively to the workforce.
A great example of the Ontario Government taking positive steps towards promoting the industry is the recent introduction of full-time trade apprenticeships in high schools. We hope to see additional incentives rolled out in the coming years.
Furthermore, it’s paramount that construction companies increasingly invest in their own training initiatives with an understanding and appreciation of the fact that a skilled and engaged workforce is a major competitive advantage. By establishing comprehensive training programs, these firms will not only attract new talent but also foster the continuous development of their existing employees. From safety protocols to the latest construction technologies, ongoing training initiatives ensure that the workforce remains adaptable and capable of delivering high-quality work.
Competitive Labour Market
The construction industry also faces stiff competition in the overall labour market. Other industries offering attractive compensation packages, flexible work arrangements, and perceived stability may entice potential candidates away from construction roles.
In a rapidly evolving job market, flexibility is the name of the game. Remote work, flexible hours, and work-life balance are priorities for many job seekers, so industries that can accommodate these preferences more readily than construction may gain the upper hand. As written in a previous blog by LRO Staffing, Construction – traditionally an on-site and highly collaborative industry – faces the challenge of adapting to these changing expectations and demonstrating its commitment to work-life balance.
In addition, while construction roles can be very rewarding in many ways, other sectors often dangle immediate incentives that can be hard to resist, especially for the incoming Gen Z workforce. Candidates, especially those early in their careers, may be drawn to industries that offer a clearer picture of growth paths or perceived desirable perks such as dog-friendly offices, catered lunches, etc., causing construction companies to lose out on potential talent who don’t yet see the longer-term potential that their career in construction could offer.
In summary, to address the talent shortage, construction companies in Canada must adopt a multi-faceted approach. This includes promoting the industry’s benefits, investing in skills development, fostering partnerships with educational institutions, and enhancing the overall image of construction careers. By collectively addressing these challenges, we can build a more robust construction workforce and propel the industry toward sustained success.