Contributed by Jeffrey Potter
I recently was listening to a construction podcast where one of the topics briefly discussed was how terrible drawings have become. More like copy and paste, drag and drop type documents. This isn’t the first I have heard this, but this time, I stopped to think why. Why has an industry that was known for perfection and being detailed oriented now being referred to by a Contractor of almost the opposite? Well, personally I think it comes down to several areas where Architecture has failed.
The first, and probably, the most unpopular, as I’ll get some disagreement across the board is with Architecture school programs. Note, I am addressing what I see comes out of the local college Architecture programs, not everyone single one. I also didn’t go through an Architecture program, but I see what it is and what it focuses on and what it doesn’t focus on. Architecture school focuses on design and theory where students are almost suffocated with the amount of work they have to do. All the interns and recent new hires I ask, say they get about one semester of professional practice, but that no one pays attention because it doesn’t matter, and they have to spend more time on their design classes. Now design is great, it needs to be taught, it needs to be understood, because design gets you the “W”. If a firm puts out crappy designs, they are not getting Work. So, design is a huge component.
However, I think the technical aspect of the profession is missing and contributing to the overall thought that construction drawings are terrible. These young students come out of school with no technical training. They are expected to learn this technical training, which is a huge part of the job, on the job from others. I have had conversations with PM level employees or employees who have been in this industry for a long time that don’t know what specs are, how to read them, or how they relate to their drawings!!! Are you kidding me!!!?? We expect these young professionals to be the production and the Project Architect to direct the technical aspects of the project, but what if the Project Architect has no idea either or is a poor teacher? How are these young professionals supposed to learn!? Many firms don’t invest in the training needed to learn and fully understand the implications of their Work. They have no idea that one simple mislabeled keynote could cost their firm thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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.
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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