Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
It is difficult to go a day without hearing of the skilled trade shortage that we are suffering within the construction industry. The issue is by no means new, but has been brought to the forefront by voices like Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" and John Ratzenberger.
These independent voices coupled with prominent companies stepping forward to combat these problems, such as Home Depot and Lowes, gives me hope that we've recognized the need for course correction and we're acting on it.
An industry that is near and dear to me - floorcovering - stepped forward last week to announce their part in addressing the skilled trades shortage with their "We are Part of the Solution" initiative. Kudos to the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) for fighting this fight. We're only in the early rounds of this 12 round battle if you ask me, but we need more industry associations to drop personal (and political) interests and instead draw industries, businesses and groups together to tackle these matters. We're not going to resolve this overnight, but we will get to the later rounds of the fight, as we all need to be a part of the solution.
Please read on for the official WFCA announcement...
World Floor Covering Association Spearheads Industry-Wide United Front to Address the Labor Shortage Through its “We are Part of the Solution” Initiative
December 12, 2019 – Chattanooga, Tn. At a press conference earlier today, the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) announced the first ever industry-wide initiative, “We are Part of the Solution,” to impact the most pressing matter facing our industry - the installation crisis. The World Floor Covering Association has committed an initial seed-funding donation of $1.0M and challenges industry leaders to join with the WFCA in solving the labor shortage. This breakthrough collaborative effort will include two distinct initiatives that will serve to broaden industry support and participation. As an initial step, the WFCA has spearheaded the formation
of the Floor Covering Education Foundation (FCEF), an organization dedicated to recruiting and training individuals in preparation for a career in the flooring industry. In another unprecedented move, to be truly inclusive of all industry partners, the WFCA has made its membership FREE to all independent floorcovering dealers.
FCEF exists to lead a collaborative network of industry and educational partners aligned to support student development, training, certification, and transition into the flooring industry workforce, but its initial focus will be on solving the installation crisis at the root level of the problem – student recruitment and education. According to the FCLC (Floor Covering Leadership Council) study, the industry will need to recruit and educate roughly 6 thousand new installers annually for the next 10 years to replace attrition in the workforce, or the crisis will deepen.
Contributed by James Aiken
(Editor's Note: October is Careers in Construction Month, an annual month-long celebration of craft professionals and the career opportunities in the construction industry.)
You’ve probably heard by now about record low unemployment.
Simply posting a job description on a job board or in the newspaper doesn’t always cut it. Especially when you’re looking for a stable, long-term hire.
The reason is - firms are still using the standard recruiting strategy to pursue a market of candidates that is perpetually shrinking. . .
When unemployment is high, the job boards are poppin’. It seems like just about everyone is willing to check out new opportunities.
But what should firms do when that strategy doesn’t work anymore?
It’s simple - and treading lightly as to not get too political but...
“If you like your recruiting strategy, you can keep your recruiting strategy!”
Having an active candidate strategy works sometimes. There's no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
What isn’t being addressed (most of the time) is a passive candidate attraction strategy.
Firms want to hire associates who are high performers. Candidates who are happy, and successful in their current role. The disconnect is that they typically are not changing their recruiting process.
They simply forward the job description to these candidates.
Here’s the problem with that; happy people don’t move so easy.
Here’s the solution: create a candidate acquisition process that specifically targets passive candidates.
Passive candidates take a bit more “warming up”.
Job boards are like speed dating. Everyone knows whats up and you can usually screen people out fairly quickly. Everyone is looking for volume.
Recruiting passive candidates is like (gasp) picking up an attractive person at a bar.
You wouldn’t walk up, introduce yourself, then immediately ask for a phone number, would you? Maybe some of you extra attractive people would - but it never worked for me!
We need to “warm up” the candidates.
Contributed by Russell Harrison
In my last blog post we looked at the struggles a product rep has comparing a product that is specified that doesn’t match the drawings. Or, how we compare apples to oranges.
In this post, we’re going to take it one level further and look at one small thing that happens at the subcontractor level during the bid phase. Before I go there, I’m going to sidetrack into the glazing side a bit, but we’ll bring it back around to the metal panel industry we spoke about in blog post #1, I promise!
In a past life, I was a subcontractor in Oregon working in the commercial glazing realm. We would install anything glazing related in commercial buildings or high-end residences. That could be curtainwalls and storefronts, automatic door entrances, or even vinyl windows. The reason I bring this up is because it gave our team exposure to items from Divisions 5 (Metal), 7 (Thermal and Moisture Protection), or 8 (Openings). As our work was based around Division 8, this forced us to sometimes work with quite a few items outside of our realm of expertise and brought up a lot of questions internally. Anytime we had time to reach out to a rep and discuss the things we didn’t understand, we would do so. However, when our bid lead times were short, we’d have to make a lot of guesses.
Guessing isn’t an abnormal occurrence in construction estimating. Unfortunately, it’s quite normal. Controlling the amount of guessing for subcontractors is an area where we can all help.
Subcontractors, like most people involved in the commercial construction industry, have to clearly understand the work to bid a project accurately. As product reps, we try to work side by side with our subs to make sure they have all the information they need by the bid date so they can provide a thorough bid, but sometimes things happen outside of our control. A recent item outside of our control, and a very relevant example, would be our white-hot construction market in a booming economy.
During a construction boom, most estimating teams at the subcontractor level are working 60-70 hours a week in an attempt to keep up with the number of projects that are bidding. This doesn’t leave much, if any, time for other daily tasks. Estimators are typically very selective of what they will consider bidding during these times, will only work with general contractors (GC's) they like, will choose to bid jobs that are completely detailed and well specified, or will chose projects that fit into their available labor calendars.
Contributed by Jef McCurdy
Whether it is carefully cultivated or haphazardly ignored, every company has a culture. Top leaders create cultures that encourage quality, respect, accountability and more. These values help to create an environment where clients and staff feel confident in the value of the services or products delivered. However, culture is an often-overlooked aspect of the trades. Ask yourself this: Why would anyone want to start or continue working with you and your company?
If the answer is, “They need a job, and I’ve got work”, don’t expect to have long-term, loyal employees. Companies with weak cultures have retention issues. Because they do nothing to create loyalty, their employees are easily poached. Because they are constantly training new employees on the basics, they struggle to develop the higher-level skills required to meet client demands.
Conversely, employees in environments of appreciation, trust and development are far more likely to remain loyal and deliver greater value to your company as their skills and knowledge increase. When leadership has their backs, employees are more likely to remain engaged and proactive.
It is commonly accepted that working in the trades is supposed to be stressful, but I disagree. Hard work is expected, but bad leaders burden their staff with undue stress and uncertainty. I have found that bosses who yell the most, explain the least. I was on a job site a while back where another trade was also doing work. As I set up for my day, I noticed two of the guys arrive. They waited around for about 45 minutes until their boss finally arrived. He then berated them for at least 15 minutes for being lazy good-for-nothings for having not started working before his arrival. Their explanation that they did not know what he wanted them to do and were unable to get a hold of their boss fell on deaf ears.
The following day, the guys again arrived before their boss. Fearful of being humiliated in front of everyone on the job site again, they found work to busy themselves. On this day, their boss was an hour late and again upset with his crew. Calling them names and yelling, he said that they were idiots and should have known that their self-assigned tasks were a waste of time.
Luckily, I was quickly off to another project. But my short time with the yelling boss left me very uncomfortable, even though I didn’t have to work directly with him. Ironically, the predetermined belief that his crew was lazy and didn’t care about the quality of their work likely created that exact scenario.
Contributed by Michael Chambers
Recently, a national trade association contacted education presenters to provide them with the evaluation results for their programs. This is a large association with a very strong focus on technology and its applications in business, education, worship, and industry. Their national convention offers hundreds of hours of educational opportunities for the attendees.
In general the education programs were very well received and evaluated. Attendees rated 90% of the programs at 4 (out of 5) or above for “overall quality and interest”. However, it is interesting to note that the same attendees indicated that less than 10% of the programs were rated 4 or above for “applicability to daily practice”. In other words, attendees thought the programs were very interesting but came away with nothing they could use in day-to-day practice.
In my experience this is true of most of the continuing education that I receive from product manufacturers’ box lunches, AIA continuing education programs, and CSI Chapter presentations. The majority of them are interesting and provide USEFUL information but rarely do they ever provide USABLE information. The concept here is much like searching the web on Google™ or Yahoo™, you end up with hundreds of USEFUL items but only a tiny fraction are truly USABLE. If continuing education is to have a positive impact on the construction industry, developers and presenters are going to have to put real, applicable content into the programs.
To effectively use continuing education as a marketing and communication tool, the content presented must be directly applicable to the day-to-day operations of the audience. Information about a product’s features and benefits is quite useful, as marketing hype, but it is rarely usable since design professionals need industry information, technical data, design guidelines, and details to effectively integrate a product or system into a building project.
In any type of presentation to design professionals, the focus must be on providing USABLE rather than USEFUL information. I guaranty it will transform your relationships with design professionals and enhance your professional credibility. It is critical to provide continuing education information on how to specify the product and to provide examples and details of how to appropriately incorporate the product into the drawings. I am constantly amazed how few educational presentations even discuss specifying and even less, how to detail and coordinate the drawings.
The best and most effective presentations are extremely simple, no PowerPoint™ or flim flam, just product installation examples, guide specifications, and example construction drawings of successful installations. That is truly USABLE information and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE continuing education.
(Editor's Note: Michael D. Chambers, FCSI, FAIA, CCS is Associate Vice President and Senior Project Specifier for HGA and is responsible for the specifications in the four California offices and is principal of MCA Specifications. Michael also sits on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council with Let's Fix Construction Co-Founders, Cherise Lakeside and Eric D. Lussier.
NEW FOR CONSTRUCT IN 2019!
The NEW Product Rep University Program has been designed to meet the needs of Manufacturer's Representatives of Architectural Building Products, as integral members of the project team. The program features a full day of education (6 sessions) to help you stay up to date on current trends in the industry, and refine your interactions and relationships with design professionals. Get additional details on the Product Rep University here: www.constructshow.com/PRU
Download a Product Rep University flyer here.
CONSTRUCT will be held October 9 - 11, 2019 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Read more on CONSTRUCT here. )
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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