As the construction labor shortage continues, many contractors are looking to fill the gaps. But with the field being down by nearly 275,000 workers at the end of 2018, where should you start your search?
With the ones who only make up 3% of the entire construction workforce in the U.S.: Women
The Construction Labor Shortage
Curbed.com explains that the shortage is due in part to, “immigration crackdowns, economic after-effects of the late-aughts recession, and a lack of interest on the parts of millenials.” Problem is, the need for construction contractors hasn’t slowed down.
An economist with the National Association of Home Builders predicts that house building will grow by 4-5% in 2019, increasing the construction labor needs by about 12% over the next 8 years.
So, with the current pool of workers starting to age out and a lack of interest in the field by men, it’s time to broaden the search.
Finding women to join your forces, however,may not be an easy task. While there are many out there who have the desire to be part of the construction industry, the resources to get them ready to do so are slim. Plus, there is an overwhelming stigma that construction is not an industry friendly to women.
Before you can knock down those gender barriers, you first have to overcome the challenge of getting women the skills and training they need to do the job. Many women already have a passion for carpentry or engineering and want to put it to use on the construction site,they just don’t know how to get started.
Resources For Women In Construction
As Curbed.com put it, there are many places women could go to seek out the training they need but all options -apprenticeship programs, vocational classes at community colleges, or jobs with contractors – aren’t obvious to someone unfamiliar with the industry and are often largely targeted to men.
That doesn’t mean women couldn’t try though. One woman interviewed by Curbed said she fell into her position as a Pile Driver “by accident.” She took initiative to go alone to a job fair for women, talked about her interests, and had a job the next week.
There are also options like a Carpenters Union which allows women, who may have families to support, generate an income while learning on the job.
However, having the necessary skills to join the construction workforce doesn’t mean they’ll dive right in. It’s important to be an advocate for women in the workplace and provide them with a healthy work/life balance.
Mom of two and a construction Project Manager, Lauren Williams, spoke to Constructor-Digital.com about powerful recruitment efforts for women. Essentially, what can more construction companies do to get women in the door?
Here are her suggestions:
- Maternity leave: Williams said that the construction industry is “ancient” in regards to parental leave and offering a better program would be a big win.
- Flexible hours: The ability to spread out an eight-hour workday over the course of the day makes a big difference. Giving them an opportunity to work for a couple hours in the morning or at night so there’s time in the middle of the day to run errands if needed.
- Wellness: Better health insurance plans and coverage is a big one, but also things like mother’s rooms, on-site gyms, etc.
- Retirement savings: Offering 401ks or other retirement savings options.
- Continuing education: Providing a perk like tuition reimbursement or paying to attend conferences and training events goes a long way when trying to advance in a career. Many women would like the opportunity to continue their learning and if it’s a company-paid benefit, it makes it an easier choice.
For all the women out there reading this post and considering a career move – it is possible and you can do it. Plus, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make 97 cents to the dollar of what a man makes in construction, which is 17 cents higher than the national average comparison in other fields.
Overcoming the gender barrier will come with time, too. The Director of Public Affairs for the Association of General Contractors said, “We need to do a better job of telling the story of all the opportunities that exist in this industry. It’s not your father’s industry anymore.”
As a general contractor, if you’re serious about helping reduce the labor shortage and get more women involved in the field,it’s time to take some action. Think about lobbying for increased funding to bring more opportunities to women interested in the trade, or just simply be are source for them as they begin their journey.