Why The Commercial Construction Industry Needs More Skilled Workers

“Work in construction” is a common answer carpenters and construction workers give when asked what they do for a living. That answer is a broad one. It actually encompasses many areas of expertise, including framing, roofing, siding, remodeling, finishing, and other specialties in between.

Commercial contractors today are struggling with skeleton crews because they just can’t find experienced and skilled workers. This doesn’t seem to make sense. Not when there are more than enough workers available for residential construction.

Shouldn’t any talented carpenter able to swing a hammer and read a tape on a commercial construction site as easily as he can on a residential one?

Let’s take a look at the specific requirements for commercial construction work:

Skills Needed

First things first. Commercial construction involves much more than knowing how to swing a hammer and read a tape. Often times commercial workers must have skills in not only carpentry, but also masonry, concrete, metal work, welding, electrical, plumbing, equipment operation or some variation. Once an accomplished worker achieves this skill set, he might be more inclined to start his own contracting company than be limited by the rules of a corporate office.

Corporate Structure

Residential construction jobs tend to provide a certain amount of leeway when it comes to schedule and skill level requirements. It’s not too far out of the realm to see a residential crew consist of a retiree, a third shift worker looking for extra hours, and a teenager on summer break. For the most part, days off are pretty easy to come by. Commercial jobs tend to be more structured, with tighter deadlines, and not all carpenters can commit to the rigid schedules. Commercial jobs also may require travel and extended time away from home, which makes it difficult to appeal to middle-aged workers with families.

Job Opportunities

Many residential workers are members of the community, and people you know personally. When someone is laid off from an office or manufacturing job, word of mouth travels quickly, and it’s not long before a local residential contractor offers him a job. Commercial work requires a different skill level, one that is usually more sought out and specialized.

How Can Commercial Contractors Find Skilled Workers?

The commercial industry is in a bit of a role reversal today, with contractors having to seek out workers instead of the other way around. The potential employee must be a reliable skilled worker who has no problem traveling and working under a hierarchy of management on a large crew. Here are some tips on how a well-balanced, skilled crew can be put together:

  • Pay More. Higher pay is the obvious solution to find more talented workers. Commercial contractors need to adjust their profit margin or charge more so that employees can enjoy a trickle-down effect.
  • Hire Nationally. Commercial companies with assignments throughout the US can consider hiring workers near the job sites, rather than near their own home headquarters. Contractors can simply meet them on the job site. This approach would greatly expand the talent pool.
  • Hire Recruiting Companies. In the same way that professional sports teams should always be on the lookout for that skilled free agent, commercial construction companies should be too. It’s not a bad idea to partner with a recruiting or job service organization that is constantly in touch with employment seekers.
  • Over hire. While many manufacturers employ ‘just-in-time’ inventory management to minimize their overhead, a commercial construction crew must have a surplus of workers on at all times. There should always be some work to keep carpenters busy during slow periods. Paying dependable workers to handle a broom is better than stretching them thin and missing crucial deadlines because of a short crew.

Growth Outlook

The National Association of Home Builders reported that nearly half the residential and commercial builders in America reported a labor shortage in 2014 indicating a true problem. This coincides with a 13.1% growth forecast in 2015 and an early 9.2% projection for 2016 for the commercial building sector. While these numbers may seem alarming, the silver lining in here is that supply and demand will create an incentive for people to get back into the construction industry. The younger workforce should see the potential for higher pay in commercial construction, and those looking to switch careers one last time in their 30’s will be more open to entering the carpentry industry.

There will always be some uncertainty in commercial construction. It’s an industry that ebbs and flows with fluctuations in the economy. The same can be said of just about every industry. Builders who want to grow and expand will need to take a look at how corporate sales and technology giants find their employees. Approach workers like the highly skilled professionals they are and enlist the help of headhunting agencies to find them.

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