By Ryan Bettis
In an article that appeared in the March 28, 2022 issue of McKinsey & Company’s “Bridging the labor mismatch in US construction”, U.S. based construction projects are short-staffed today, and the problem is set to get worse over the next ten years.
There is a critical need for available manpower to fill positions ranging from entry level laborer or skilled positions to experienced estimators, project managers, and superintendents. When I first entered the construction industry, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. When considering working in construction, the first thing that came to mind involved swinging a hammer. It is common to think about construction and immediately think of the labor aspect or the physical trades. However, I discovered there are greater opportunities available to build a rewarding career in construction with many benefits.
I originally started out working in the residential sector in a variety of different trades. This afforded me the time to get a good feel for what I thought would be the best fit for me while kick starting my career. One thing that I observed was the constant need for manpower and skilled labor on all jobs. The struggle to find this is real. This issue has only grown since my time in the residential industry and has similar impacts to what I see now on the commercial construction side.
One reason I believe this issue is so prevalent is the lack of young people entering the construction industry. It appears young professionals are unaware of or don’t understand the quantity and quality of work opportunities the construction industry has to offer as well as how rewarding many of these positions are. Ranging from CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) drivers to carpenters to project managers, the need to fill these positions on construction sites is at an all-time high. As communities continue to grow and develop, finding skilled labor will be a constant challenge. This can impact communities and potential clients on many levels. Mostly I see this lack of manpower contributing to the rising cost of construction as the less manpower you have to spread around to multiple jobs the more expensive it is to keep said manpower on one site.
Often it goes unnoticed just how much goes into a construction project ‘behind the scenes’ — supervisors, foremen, engineers, masons, painters, safety professionals, and administrative support — each person plays an integral role in the day-to-day work that needs to be done to keep projects running smoothly and to get them to completion.
Interestingly, I have found that companies are willing and eager to recruit young professionals ready and willing to be trained in entry level positions. Construction often isn’t thought of as an industry with a lot of entry level positions but due to the high rate of individuals retiring from this industry and the need for more and more manpower this could not be further from the truth. In my experience, fresh thinkers and ideas are always valuable to the construction industry. When seasoned veterans share their knowledge and experience it can help young professionals learn and build upon their strengths that will ultimately create a successful construction experience for the client as well as positively impact our communities. As the need grows, I believe we will continue to see just how important it is to fill the roles that were once held by individuals retiring as well as creating new roles that can be filled with creative, efficient minds that help contribute to a project’s success. I believe a huge incentive to have companies recruit and train individuals is they can build their workforce around the needs of that specific company and can help grow the company based on how they train and the quality of training provided to these new hires.
Whether you are fresh out of high school, a recent college graduate, or a seasoned member of the workforce there is and will continue to be a growing need for individuals to join the construction industry. Many opportunities are available to anyone willing to work. It is often thought that the best route to follow after high school is to go to a college or university and get a degree. In many fields this is an excellent option to pursue a career but in construction many of the opportunities do not require a degree and can be just as rewarding and fulfilling with quality training and hands on experience. Trade schools and programs offered through BOCES provide excellent opportunities for people to get their foot in the door.
Ryan was first introduced to the construction industry by working as a carpenter on various small projects for several construction companies in the Southern Tier. He gained valuable exposure to the different aspects of construction as well as working with project managers, superintendents, and the variety of trades required to complete projects. Ryan has always been drawn to the idea of revitalizing communities, making buildings useful again, and seeing the results of a built facility. Getting ‘behind the scenes’ of construction is his passion. Ryan laid the foundation of his career with smaller residential projects and worked his way up to multi-million dollar commercial/industrial projects. Today, Ryan is an Assistant Project Manager with Welliver. He can be reached at [email protected].