Survey Highlights Workforce Prep Weaknesses

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2023


As 88% of construction firms are reportedly having trouble filling open positions, results from an Associated General Contractors of America and Autodesk survey have found “significant shortcomings” in the current approach to preparing workers for construction careers.

“The biggest takeaway from this year’s Workforce Survey is how much the nation is failing to prepare future workers for high-paying careers in fields like construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It is time to rethink the way the nation educates and prepares workers.”

Report Findings

The 11th annual workforce survey was conducted in late July and early August, AGC says, with over 1,400 firms completing the survey across the industry, including union and open shop firms of all sizes. Currently, 85% of construction firms report they have open positions they are trying to fill.

Simonson said that one of the main reasons labor shortages are so severe is that most job candidates are not qualified to work in the industry. A “shocking” 68% of firms report applicants lack the skills needed to work in construction, with one-third of firms reporting that candidates cannot pass a drug test.

Workforce shortages are consequently impacting the supply chain, making it difficult for firms to get materials delivered on time and driving up material costs. The AGC says that while these shortages have recently shown signs of abating, 65% of firms report projects they work on have been delayed because of supply challenges and 61% have been delayed because of labor shortages.

Half the respondents reported that owners canceled, postponed or scaled back projects due to increasing costs, while 22% of firms said projects were impacted due to lengthening or uncertain completion times.

According to the association, 81% of firms have raised base pay rates for their workers during the past year. In addition to raising pay, 44% are reportedly providing incentives and bonuses and 26% have also improved their benefits packages.

In terms of recruitment, firms are also getting more “creative” when it comes to recruiting workers, including 63% of survey respondents reporting they added online strategies, like using social media or targeted digital advertising, to connect better with younger applicants.

Contractors are also increasing investments in their internal training programs, with 41% spending on training and professional development programs, 25% enhancing online and video training capabilities and 14% using augmented and virtual reality technology to train workers.

Technology is also playing an important role in helping firms cope with labor shortages and other challenges they are facing, Simonson added. The survey found that 91% of firms agree that their employees need to possess digital technology skills to be successful.

Artificial intelligence and robotics on construction jobs will positively impact construction costs, reported 44% of respondents. Additionally, 41% said AI and robotics will improve the quality of construction jobs and make workers safer and more productive.

“For potential hires, a career opportunity in construction should mean an opportunity to work with advanced technology and perform safe, meaningful work,” said Allison Scott, director of customer experience & industry advocacy at Autodesk. 

“As firms adopt more digital technologies and create stronger classroom and training pathways, we’ll begin to see a new generation enter the industry equipped with the tools and skills needed to tackle construction’s largest challenges.”

“Boosting funding for programs that expose students to skills in careers like construction will signal to students that there are multiple paths to success in life, and one is not better than another,” said Simonson.

The full survey results can be found here.

Tech in Construction

In May, a study from automation solution Yooz found that the construction industry ranks the lowest in technology competence among surveyed industries.

The new study regarding technology in the workplace also reports that half of U.S. workers under the age of 25 associate their industry’s adoption of technology to their prospects of career advancement.

The report surveyed 600 U.S. professionals with a minimum salary of $50,000 who worked in 10 fields, asking them to describe their experiences and perceptions of workplace technology this year. Key findings from the survey included:

  • 50% of workers under 25 agreed with the statement “the way my industry views adopting new technology is a barrier to my career advancement,” compared to 30% of workers 25 and older;
  • Younger employees tend to be the first to embrace new technologies at work, with 32% of salaried workers under 25 saying they are “among the first to experiment with and use them,” compared to 22% of workers 35 and older;
  • More than two-thirds of younger workers say they spend most of their work lives using workplace technologies—and nearly all (91%) agree that these technologies help them do their jobs better;
  • 30% of respondents cited “slow or outdated hardware or software” as the No. 1 technological barrier to efficiency at work, followed by lack of training (24%) and poor Internet connectivity or reliability (24%);
  • Respondents were asked to rank 10 industries based on their perceived technological proficiency. While the software industry topped the list, the industry that ranked lowest in perceived technology competence was construction, with the restaurant and automotive industries ranking just above it; and
  • Across all age groups, respondents urged employers to embrace new technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and automation technology.

Last year, in October, the Associated Builders and Contractors released its second annual construction technology report, highlighting case studies on specific technologies and innovative practices. Some technologies and innovative practices by ABC contractors found in the report included robotics, drones, analytics software, project bidding software, total human health app and safety QR codes and data sheets.

Next Generation Outreach

According to a recent analysis by student career services platform Handshake, record talent demand in the construction industry is setting up the next generation to unlock progress on the labor shortage, technology and diversity.

Handshake reportedly found that, on its platform, construction job creation has been the highest over the past year in states that are receiving the most bipartisan infrastructure law funding, including California, Florida and New York. Additionally, job openings in states receiving the most per-capita funding, including Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont, have increased significantly on the platform in the past year.

“Our data shows that construction companies are recognizing the importance of early talent—employers in this industry have significantly increased outreach to potential candidates on Handshake over the past year, messaging 46% more students compared to an increase of just 19% across all industries,” wrote the company.

“Construction employers have also increased intern hiring in certain functions; for example, engineering internship openings at construction companies have increased by 12% year over year.”

Handshake also notes that early-career technology talent could transform how the industry operates, whether it be with integrated project management software, 3D printing and augmented reality. More than a third of construction companies reportedly say that the lack of skilled labor is preventing them from adopting new technology. 

Applications from tech majors to construction industry roles on Handshake increased by 70% over the past year, compared to an average increase of 60% across all industries, and applications from computer science and data science majors were up by more than 100%.

Finally, in terms of diversity, women accounted for 36% of applications to jobs in the construction industry over the past year, and students of color accounted for more than 60% on Handshake.

   

Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors; Associated General Contractors (AGC); Business conditions; Construction; Economy; Good Technical Practice; Labor; Market trends; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Technology; Worker training; Workers

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