Construction project planning meeting

The war for talent: recruitment strategies for the next generation of skilled workers

Authored by Laura Cataldo

With the workforce candidate pool becoming smaller for every industry, it is more important than ever to have a strategic plan to recruit skilled labor for your construction company. Nearly four out of five firms expect to increase headcount in 2019[1]. The competition for a skilled workforce is hot and everyone is wondering the same thing: how to I recruit a talented and stable workforce in this challenging environment?

What is the next generation looking for?

Over the next five to seven years, millions of baby boomers will retire and at the same time young adults are feeling pressure to pursue a four-year degree and land a white collar job instead of learning a trade. Millennials today are ages 23-38 in 2019, which means companies are coming to the end of the road with strategies to attract this cohort to careers in construction.

Generation Z (currently 9-22 years old) is a completely different breed than past generations and are the new focus for recruiters. They are graduating high school by the millions each year, and — luckily for companies that are short on skilled workers and seeing baby boomers retire — the construction industry may appeal to this generation on many levels. Gen Zers can be described as:

  • Never knowing a world without internet and social media
  • Raised by hands-off parents which resulted in learning self-direction and confidence
  • Looking for careers that have meaning where they can feel like they are making an impact
  • Realistic and concerned about money and job security
  • Impatient and want to start a career early. According to a study from research firm Barna Group, 66 percent of Gen Zers want to start a career before age 30

This all means positive things for the construction industry! However, for Gen Zers to want to get into the construction industry, skilled-trade jobs need to be portrayed as a worthy alternative to college that will lead to an enriching and well-paying career.

You may ask yourself, how do I recruit Gen Z to construction? The top attractions to the construction industry for Gen Z include:

  • Growing industry
  • Earning potential
  • Continuing education and advancement
  • Work is meaningful and impacts many
  • Technology advances
  • Entrepreneurship

By promoting and leveraging these attractions, you can get Generation Z’s attention and reel them into the industry.

A key factor in the recruitment strategy for Gen Z is to start early. Attending career fairs and presenting at high schools are great ways to start reaching out to the students. As an industry, construction offers many programs that allow Gen Zers to start their career early. Youth apprenticeships, internships, mentorships and co-ops are powerful ways to introduce the construction industry to teenagers and young adults.

Knowing what sets your company apart is pertinent to attracting Generation Z. Just as a candidate hopes their personality comes through in interviews, a company has to portray their company culture and what it is like to work for them. Gen Zers want to hear about the technology you’re implementing (think GPS, drones, BIM and virtual reality), benefit packages and career opportunities.    

Everyone cares about their compensation and wants to be compensated fairly for their work. Having incentive compensation strategies can set you apart from other construction companies. Establish a compensation system that is based upon company profitability, individual performance and also compensates employees in-line with industry averages. This includes short- and long-term incentives, benefits and culture.

The talent pool pay be small, but by promoting and utilizing the tactics listed above, you will be much more prepared to tackle this challenge and recruit top employees. 

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team.

This article previously appeared in Chicagoland Association of General Contractor’s blog.

[1]2019 AGC and Sage Hiring and Business Outlook

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