If you follow the construction industry, you are probably already aware that contractors are facing an impending labor shortage crisis. According to research by Paul Robinson, Founder and CEO of ConstructReach, half of the current construction workforce is over age 46. To add to the problem, new construction jobs are not being filled quickly enough to replace aging and retiring workers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is currently a shortage of around 300,000 jobs in the construction industry. By 2026, the construction industry will require an additional 747,000 workers in order to keep pace with demand. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) “Eye on Housing” website reports that, as of 2018, workers under 25 only accounted for 9% of construction industry employees, a smaller percentage of the workforce than in other industries.
While these numbers might seem alarming, they beg the question of why the construction industry has not been able to attract enough younger people to the workforce.
In 2015, when Paul Robinson was a Construction Project Manager for Target, he was asked to develop a strategy for keeping Target’s construction pipeline full of competent, diverse new employees. As Robinson gathered research on the current state of the industry, he realized the importance of making the information known industry-wide. This prompted ConstructReach, which he founded in May 2018 in order to introduce opportunities in construction to a new generation, unite all stakeholders, and to prepare the construction industry to accept new workers.
Here is a candid interview with Paul Robinson, the founder and what KB-RESOURCE.COM asked him about the state of the industry and the role of ConstructReach in bridging the gap between young people and general contractors (GCs).
KB-RESOURCE: What is the mission of ConstructReach? How do you view your role in the construction industry?
Robinson: ConstructReach was created with the intention of empowering and rebuilding the construction industry for a sustainable and boundless future. We bring together a generation struggling to find themselves with an industry that is ready and willing to accept them. We provide an opportunity for general contractors to teach, mentor and inspire a diverse student population where they are, acting as a facilitator between students and GCs.
KB-RESOURCE: What did your research reveal about the state of the industry and the solutions needed to fill the labor shortage?
Robinson: In addition to the retirement crisis about to hit the industry, our research revealed that minorities are underrepresented in construction. Since 44% of Millennials and 49% of generation Z are non-white, the industry’s failure to attract diverse young people is leaving many jobs unfilled. Additionally, women only account for 9% of construction employees. At ConstructReach, we reach out to young people, especially high school students, to educate them about the opportunities available in construction, and to work with GCs in order to ensure their positions are filled with competent new employees.
KB-RESOURCE: How does your program work? How do you conduct outreach to teens and GCs?
Robinson: For our GCs outreach, we make sure that ConstructReach maintains high visibility through industry magazines, blogs and events. Currently, over 80 GCs from across the country have joined the ConstructReach network. They pay to become members and as members garner access to internship programs, a social network, job banks and applicants, and more.
In order to connect to teens, we reach out to students through events like “I built this!,” which is a program that hosts two-day events for juniors and seniors at Target stores and other locations in order to give them a hands-on introduction to the construction industry and potential career paths.
The “Search for Jobs” portal on our website also collects hundreds of construction jobs and internships from across the country that new students can apply to.
KB-RESOURCE: Explain more about the “I Built This!” program. How does it work, and what about the program makes it an effective introduction to construction for teens?
Robinson: “I Built This!” is about showing teens what opportunities exist for them in construction by giving them the opportunity to try out a new skill within a professional environment. There are a lot of misconceptions about construction work – such as that construction jobs are low-paying or that there is no room for women in construction. When we bring teens to these events at big brand name stores and show them how our team constructs and renovates these large buildings, we introduce them to industry professionals who are not far in age from the students themselves. Speaking with other young men and women who have found success in construction and continue to develop and succeed helps teens see the industry in a new light. “I Built This!” events empower students, parents and communities by giving them knowledge of more career options.
“I Built This!” is kicking off a national campaign in Los Angeles, Denver, St. Louis and Miami. These events are not just for Target stores – we encourage GCs everywhere to participate. Please see our website for more information on the program and how to sign up to host an event.
KB-RESOURCE: What makes construction appealing to teens today over other career paths out of high school?
Robinson: Construction has a place for every skill set – whether you excel at writing, math, science or sports. We inform teens of different career paths in construction and how construction jobs are “more than a hard hat and a hammer” – that there is endless opportunity in the industry to improve in both skills and wages.
One big advantage in choosing construction after high school is avoiding student debt, which is becoming an increasing problem for young graduates today.
KB-RESOURCE: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the construction industry as we begin the next decade?
Robinson: The labor shortage will definitely be one of the industry’s biggest challenges moving forward. A lot of what we are seeing today is the result of a lack of information and outreach between the construction industry and young people, especially in diverse communities. The good news is, this issue can be solved through information, education and connecting students and GCs to establish a dialogue. ConstructReach is proud to play a role in building a more exciting, fulfilling and sustainable future for the construction industry.
KB-RESOURCE: On behalf of everyone here at KB-Resource as well as our readers, I’d like to thank you for giving us your time today to discuss this important program to ‘bridge the gap’ in construction.