BY VINEET JAIN
America’s skilled labor workforce is suffering and before we know it, the skilled labor pool might run dry. According to a recent AGC survey, 80 percent of construction firms indicate they plan to increase their payroll this year.
The 2012 Current Population Survey revealed that nearly half of the construction industry’s workforce was over the age of 45, and 20 percent had already celebrated their 55th birthdays. This means at least 1.1 million American construction workers will hit retirement age within the next 10 years.
Generation Y (ages 34 and under) is waiting in the wings and is perfectly positioned to offer a solution. This generation of millennials is currently in its prime working years and, according to Pew Research Center, will soon surpass baby boomers as the nation’s largest living age group — helping bridge the gap between supply and demand as the current workforce ages.
Not only that, they bring something new to the table: technology. As more and more tech is integrated into the construction trade, the definition of “skilled operator” is changing. Construction companies are using everything from wearables to big data to cloud collaboration in their projects, and it is difficult for them to find workers with the tech skills they need in the previous generations.
The construction industry needs to capitalize on these up-and-coming workplace contributors.
SKILLED LABOR: GREAT FOR GEN Y
Given the number of corporate jobs that require work experience or cheap-to-unpaid internships prior to full-time employment, Gen Y candidates are excited by career possibilities that include immediate fair pay — a benefit the skilled trade industry certainly provides.
Another financial perk of skilled trade is the relatively low cost of a trade school education. Four-year college degrees are thought to produce larger salaries, but they also create high levels of student loan debt and a lengthy onramp to financial success.
All of these factors illustrate why becoming a craftsman carries a strong financial advantage to millennials, but the monetary benefits are just half of the appeal.
Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification, and this can actually be an asset because these young people feel compelled to find the fastest, most effective way to do things. Gen Y also strives to work in fast-paced, challenging environments. Inherently tech savvy and natural multitaskers, millennials demand an active work environment that keeps their minds and hands engaged. They enjoy staying busy, adapting on the fly, and thinking critically — all traits that make skilled work appealing to this young demographic, not to mention provide great benefits to contractors.
GEN Y: GREAT FOR SKILLED LABOR
Gen Y’s main mantra is, “work smarter, not harder.” This “smart” mentality creates a great potential for innovation in the construction industry along the lines of cost savings, time efficiency, work productivity, and effective use of new technology.
Despite the lower price tag of trade school degrees, millennials most commonly attend four-year universities, and they are the most educated generation in American history. Inserting these bright minds into your crew will definitely add a spark to your company and positively influence its future direction.
Millennials will also contribute to a more connected work environment. They’ve grown up with social media and text messaging; they’ve added a whole new dynamic to work-life relationships. An overwhelming majority of millennials prefer collaborative work cultures rather than competitive ones, and this relationship-based focus creates strong, loyal bonds among workers. Happy workers means better product.
While the future of the skilled workforce is looking bleak, Gen Y offers great hope that things will turn around. If embraced for who they are, this group of young people can and will become tomorrow’s successful skilled trade workers — with new technological tools to help move your company forward.
Vineet Jain is a cofounder and chief executive of adaptive enterprise file services company Egnyte.