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August 4, 2022

College or bust is no longer the only option

  • Candidates are in a position where they can be selective about where they want to work.
    I&E Construction


    Between the Great Resignation of early 2022 and the wave of baby boomers retiring, we are amid one of the biggest opportunities of this lifetime when it comes to accelerating and choosing the trajectory of one’s career in construction. The labor shortage woes of this year have been felt across all industries, but in one with an aging population, the construction industry will be forced into an unprecedented position over the next few years. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the peak of this labor shortage yet. According to NCCER, 23% of the construction industry’s workforce will retire over the next nine years.

    The Associated Builders and Contractors reports that, assuming construction spending growth slows next year, the industry will still need to bring in roughly 590,000 new workers on top of normal hiring to meet industry demand. That is only if the industry slows down in the next year. If the market stays on pace, the association estimates that the industry will need to add 650,000 workers on top of normal hiring.

    This gap will leave companies at the mercy of the labor pool. Candidates are in a position where they can be choosier about where they want to work, what they want to do, and to what capacity, forever altering the industry’s work model. Some will coast through this period, while others will seize the opportunity and thrive. In this new environment, employees with the right aptitude will be able to accelerate their careers at a rate never seen before.

    Photo courtesy of I&E Construction [enlarge]
    Identifying star candidates and ensuring low turnover has been a major focus for I&E in the last five years.

    Identifying these star candidates and ensuring low turnover has been a major focus for us in the last five years. Foreseeing this play out, I&E Construction has implemented many programs and incentives leading up to this period. These initiatives have helped us lower our turnover to an all-time low, well below this last year’s industry average of 57.5% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are also a major contributor to the exponential growth we’ve experienced and become one of Oregon’s top 100 fastest-growing companies for four years running. One of these initiatives has been recognizing and educating as many potential candidate pools as possible.

    With the institutional education focus shifting away from the trades in the last decade, there is a lack of understanding and awareness at the entry-level, when it comes to careers in construction. We have spent a lot of time speaking to high school and college students about career opportunities in the construction industry. What we have observed among the younger generation is that there is a shared misconception that pursuing a successful and rewarding career in construction can only be obtained through post-secondary education or union jobs. Based on the makeup of our organization, we know this not to be true.

    There is a large population of students who are looking for options outside of college but don’t know what opportunities are out there.?Our focus in the last year has been to work with high schools and educate students on the different career paths. I&E has partnered with a local school district to help design its new Career Technology Education (CTE) construction program. Serving on the board allows us to help shape the program throughout the planning and implementation phase. This initiative will give thousands of students in our area the possibility of hands-on learning while still in school

    Additionally, as industry professionals, we believe it is our responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation through education and mentorship. To fulfill that responsibility, we’ve established a paid internship program that is built to accommodate students from different educational backgrounds. Students are invited to participate at the high school and college levels. Each year is designed to give students at different levels the best real-world experience, so they are set up for a successful entry into the workforce.

    The only way this industry makes it through this gap period favorably is with a collective effort in attracting new talent and bringing interest back to construction. With the right exposure, the construction industry will gain new traction as a worthwhile career path for many undecideds.??

    Nida Molodih has been the human resource and safety manager of I&E Construction for more than five years and oversees the Oregon and Florida divisions.

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