The construction industry plays a vital role in shaping societies. However, current projections indicate a shortage of workers to keep up with infrastructure demands. The industry also struggles with a significant lack of diversity and inclusion – something to consider when attracting emerging talent.
To meet these challenges, both the industry and educational institutions need to find better ways to communicate the benefits of a career in construction. Additionally, it’s imperative to alleviate fears around emerging technologies and instead explore their exciting impact.
More than just hard hats and hard yakka
One of the barriers to the industry’s recruitment efforts is the perception of the types of work we do. Careers in the construction industry extend beyond the building site, particularly as we see more technological and digital advancements.
Many excellent candidates could be put off by the perception that roles might mean working outdoors, remotely, or primarily on-site. So, how can organisations challenge these perspectives and attract a wider pool of candidates?
1. Engaging with underrepresented groups
The construction industry suffers from a distinct lack of diversity in its ranks, particularly gender diversity. Tackling this head on is a key step for organisations to attract and retain a wider pool of qualified talent.
In Australia, women represent only 9 percent of the construction industry workforce and only 2 percent of on-site roles. Additionally, research by the University of New South Wales has revealed women are leaving engineering and construction 38 percent faster than their male colleagues. These numbers highlight the severe limitation on who the industry attracts and perhaps show a bias in its retention efforts.
Within a rapidly digitised world, technical skills are becoming more required within construction, opening an exciting level of career opportunities for those who otherwise may not have considered the industry. These critical roles must be filled, but finding the right talent will require changing recruiters’ perspectives. Companies can build an agile and effective team by casting a wider net and investing in stronger learning and engagement.
2. Starting early with education
Traditional educational institutions can hold outdated perceptions of the construction industry and don’t always convey the full scope of opportunities available to those considering a career in this field. Particularly in high schools, educators are critical in promoting opportunities and pathways for their students.
Partnering with educators to ensure they are equipped with impactful messaging can significantly improve future intakes for the construction industry. This partnership relies heavily on the industry and individual organisations defining the future of construction and moving past old perceptions.
In a recent Australian Federal Inquiry, The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, and Cities expressed a growing concern regarding the industry’s ability to deliver on the next ten years of pipeline infrastructure needs. They suggested that the industry will struggle to meet this demand if there is no reform in attracting and retaining workers (as well as addressing culture and productivity).
Organisations need to do better at letting down walls and broadening the horizons for talent intake, which involves stronger connections with the education sector to promote the variety and potential within the industry.
3. Promoting the role of technology
Ranking as the second-least digitised sector in the world in 2016, the construction industry is often considered lagging in digital and technological advances. However, over the past several years, it has seen rapid change.
The growth of construction technology has skyrocketed, with venture capital (VC) activity reaching several billion dollars and outpacing the overall VC funding industry 15-fold in 2019. In Australia and New Zealand, almost 40% of companies are now establishing a digital transformation roadmap for their ongoing operations.
A common concern within organisations is the impact of ‘new tech’ on legacy or older ways of working. The fear of ‘out with the old, in with the new’ can undoubtedly affect the older workforce. However, adopting technological changes should be seen as a powerful partnership between the old guard and young minds.
Workers who have been in the industry for 30–40 years have immense experience but can be frustrated with the ever-evolving tools, software, and systems in today’s digital world. There’s potential power here in ensuring young recruits are equipped with strong technical software and systems skills and the ability to translate them into current ways of working.
As opposed to becoming stagnant in old ways, there’s an exciting opportunity to combine the experience of older generations with the innovation of the young. As the industry expands and embraces technology, both old and new need to come together to progress.
Building a stronger construction industry
To build a more sustainable industry, we must tackle outdated perspectives of what a construction worker looks like and instead focus on attracting and retaining the best talent.
Everyone benefits from a strong and diverse construction industry. Through improved relationships with educational institutions and better messaging about what a career in the industry entails, the best workers for the job will begin to line up.