The labor shortage among the professional trades is no secret. But because it’s beginning to hurt construction companies’ profits, the topic has become more prevalent in the industry. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting the construction industry will face a shortage of 1.6 million workers between now and 2022. Not only private companies are suffering — this shortage of labor could have a detrimental effect on the entire building sector, including manufacturers of building products, tools, and all types of materials used in the industry. Manufacturers must be proactive and modify their products and marketing tactics to succeed in this changing industry.
Here are three realities of the skilled labor shortage we, as marketers, must understand in order to appeal to the manufacturing and construction industry.
1. Lack of labor is not the problem, finding skilled labor is.
Lack of skilled labor is the issue facing the construction industry. There are fewer and fewer highly trained and capable craftsmen in the workforce, and almost none of these individuals are looking for work. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 86% of firms are having difficulty filling positions. Among the craft professions, carpenters, sheet metal installers, concrete workers, electricians, and equipment operators are the hardest to fill. This presents a drastic problem for construction companies: their teams are short-staffed and lack skilled workers. This hinders the progress of construction projects and creates serious safety concerns. With smaller underqualified crews there’s a greater risk of accidents and a decrease in productivity.
Marketing Opportunity: With smaller skilled crews, manufacturers need to design products that increase productivity on the jobsite. With fewer people doing the job of many, highly productive products will be in demand to prevent project delays. Manufacturers must design products that increase productivity at an affordable cost while remaining safe and easy to use, despite the disparity in experience.
2. Inexperienced workers are entering the industry.
The recession hit the construction industry just as hard, if not harder, than the overall economy. More than two million construction jobs were lost. Many of these skilled workers were forced to drop out of the industry and have yet to return. Some changed jobs and switched industries, others retired. Kent Schwickert, SVP of Tecta America Corp., explains: “The past recession has put us in a tough spot. We lost a generation or more of trained workers in our industry.”
What’s next for the construction industry? A generation of inexperienced labor. Many Millennials entering the workforce do not consider construction a viable career option. They are being pushed towards four-year degrees and white-collar jobs, leaving the construction industry with inexperienced labor to fill the vacancies.
Marketing Opportunity: With an influx of unskilled workers entering the construction industry, manufacturers must design even easier-to-use products. Those products that are simplest and easiest to install will be in high demand. As marketers, stressing trainable features will be most beneficial. Experienced, aging workers will be left to train the new and inexperienced. Product training sessions on the jobsite would put your company ahead of the curve.
3. Older workers are aging out, stretching the labor gap.
The construction labor gap is increasing. The recession depleted the industry’s mid-level workers, leaving large populations of experienced older workers and young inexperienced workers. According to the Economic Modeling Specialists Institute, nearly a quarter of the construction workforce is over 55 and about half is over 45. To make the skilled labor shortage even worse, 3.7 million experienced workers will retire within the next decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 Current Population Survey. This gap forces aging workers to transfer years of experience and knowledge to the growing population of new hires rather than seasoned workers.
Marketing Opportunity: Aging workers are left to share their industry expertise with new hires while continuing their projects and compensating for the lack of mid-level workers. This becomes difficult when older workers cannot handle the physical toll of the job. Marketers can appeal to older workers by making their daily processes more efficient and designing ergonomic products. Making products easier to order and install will mitigate callbacks, alleviating worker frustration, while ergonomic designs will be easier on aging bodies.
Understanding the realities of the skilled labor shortage gives manufacturing marketers the upper hand when appealing to the building and construction industry.