Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Earlier today, while researching job ads on Craigslist, I came across a help wanted post for flooring installers that had some interesting exclusions and language:
My immediate thought was ‘boy, does this guy have some nerve to post an ad like this!’.
But then I thought about it more.
I put myself in the post creator’s shoes for a minute and I immediately knew where he was coming from. Having written ads on Craigslist for flooring installers and laborers myself, and even going so far as to register the domain workinflooring.com to find potential applicants, I know full well that there are very good reasons why these requirements were listed in the above ad.
Much like the list of terms and conditions that my company has in our proposals to clients, there are legitimate explanations for each and every one of those items being there. Typically, an item is added to our terms because at least one time in the past, a situation arose on a project jobsite that necessitated declaration for potential future work. I don’t even need to jump to conclusions to know that every item listed above is spelled out, in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS at that, because he’s seen it first-hand.
But without even knowing who this person was, I could easily envision the scenario, and it hits very close to home. They’re a small business. They’re owner-operated, and chances are, the owner is the lead installer, as well as chief cook and bottle washer. They don’t have a marketing division, nor a human resources department. They have more than enough work to keep them busy at peak times and when times are lean, everyone in the company feels the pinch. I could just as well be describing my day job. I could also be describing thousands of other small businesses across the nation.
In early June, the United States Department of Labor released the news that for the first time since statistics were tracked in 2000, the number of American job openings exceeded the number of job seekers. As a result of this ratio, business owners may feel that they have to say yes to someone who comes along unqualified, because they answered an ad. Chances are the Owner is short on time. They’re short on employees. They have bigger fish to fry and more important tasks to accomplish. And that is why, out of sheer frustration, after hiring and firing a times over, Mr. Craigslist Ad posted the above.
No matter where you turn, we’re faced with the news that there is a severe disinterest in the skilled trades industry from the younger generation, whether that is from the Millennials or Generation Z. Our Millennial Generation, whom are defined as ages 22 to 37 and number 71 million in the US as of 2017 are the future of our workforce. With the Baby Boomers (ages 54 to 72) presently numbering 74 million, but retiring in droves, Millennials will be overtaking Boomers in population in 2019 while quickly becoming the majority of the workforce.
So, where does this leave Mr. Craigslist Ad and the other small businesses that are looking for help in 2018? If there is little to no interest in the construction industry now in the younger generations, and we’re not demonstrating any reason for them to venture into it, how can we expect Mr. Craigslist Ad to have a better pool to draw from in the future, especially with my opinion that we haven’t yet witnessed the bottom of the skilled trades gap?
We certainly need to start with demonstrating the broad scope of construction. We need to get rid of the image of the Carhartt’s, hammer and the hardhat. While those positions still exist, construction has always entailed a plethora of occupations in the built environment: Architects, interior designers, engineers, code officials, specifiers, carpenters, construction managers, specialty contractors, building product representatives, electricians, heavy equipment operators, ironworkers, masons, roofers, welders, plumbers and many more.
If you couple the laundry list above with more modern-day offerings due to 2018’s massive integration with technology and changing pace, you now have a slew of possibilities within the construction industry that were not offered in the past. Technology alone offers BIM (Building Information Modeling), AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) positions, along with the hardware and software development in and around those offerings. New construction apps are popping up in droves, especially with the heavy integration of tablets and wearables on the jobsite and with our mobile phones getting larger and more sophisticated. With the collection of information from our wearables and completed projects, the need for data manipulation and analysis could be the next boom in construction jobs as companies will need to be doing more (work) with less (employees). Tech and data are just the tip of the iceberg for what future construction could look like.
The work is out there, and so are the employees. The construction industry, in general, needs to do a much better job of showing what construction IS, and not what construction WAS.
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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