If you’ve been even minorly engaged with construction industry dialogue lately, you’re most likely well aware that the current construction labor shortage is a hot topic.
The buzz around this current issue is understandable, as many construction developers and business owners are heavily feeling the impact of not being able to hire the construction talent that they need to efficiently take on and complete projects.
To complicate matters more, the labor scarcity is occuring at a time when the demand for all types of construction services is expected to grow. The more the industry expands, the more workers will be needed in order to adequately support that growth. However, there are already issues filling the positions that are currently available. In fact, the number of unfilled job openings, which increased to over 270,000 over the summer, are at a post-recession high, and that number is steadily rising.
One of the major concerns the shrinking pool of skilled workers is creating is the unavoidable skills gap that comes with it. As seasoned workers are aging, there are few younger workers who have the skills and experience to replace them.
As it currently stands, a significant portion of the construction workforce today is comprised of baby boomers, and they are retiring, or at least preparing for retirement, at an alarming rate. It’s estimated that over 10,000 baby boomers retire each day. When you consider that 50% of all construction managers are from this generation, it’s obvious why there needs to be actionable steps taken to ensure the younger workforce will be able to acquire the skills necessary to take over.
One of the methods the industry is using to narrow the skills gap is to create mentorship programs, as doing so is an effective way to allow seasoned workers to pass down their knowledge to the younger demographic before retiring.
If you’ve personally felt the stinging effects of the lack of labor and subsequent labor skills gap and you are interested in creating your own construction mentorship program, here are a few things to keep in mind:
THE BENEFITS OF A CONSTRUCTION MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
Many places that are impacted by the labor shortage have witnessed firsthand the many benefits that mentor programs have on their ability to overcome this major issue. A noteworthy example is Boston. The Compliance Mentor Group, an organization focused on providing various diversity services for the construction industry, implemented a mentorship program after Boston’s construction industry experienced a strong surge of demand. Initially, the city didn’t have the skilled labor to fulfill the demand, but after implementing the program, they are finally seeing an end to their labor drought.
Regardless of the type or size of mentorship program you create, utilizing one can help mend your workforce issues as well. The benefits of implementing a mentor program are numerous, and to demonstrate, a few of the major perks are outlined below:
- Seasoned workers are able to pass down their experience and expertise before retiring. The most obvious benefit is that experienced construction professionals can inspire and train the new workforce before they leave the industry, helping to close the ever-growing skills gap.
- The program can help the younger workforce accelerate into advanced positions. When mentors are paired with entry-level employees, mentors are able to help the newcomers quickly adapt adequate skills, allowing them to advance their careers at a faster rate.
- Mentors can demonstrate viable career options to the younger workforce. Careers in construction can be extremely lucrative, though common misconceptions often prevent younger workers from considering the field. As a result, few millennials are entering the industry (in 2015, less than 10% of construction workers were between the ages of 20 and 24). Mentorship programs can help show the younger workforce that the construction industry is a strategic career choice for anyone looking for career advancement opportunities as well as job security.
- Mentorship programs can help attract and retain millennials. Millennials put quite a bit of stock in being invested in professionally, and a previous survey found that millennials were over twice as likely to stick with an employer for more than five years if they had a mentor compared to if they didn’t have one.
- Mentorship programs often create loyal employees. When someone gains the majority of their knowledge and experience from a specific company, they are much more likely to be loyal to that company and stay employed there.
- Young workers can develop beneficial leadership skills. If you focus on gradually elevating a young worker’s skills, you can slowly develop that person’s talents into leadership abilities that will benefit both the worker and your company.
- The mentees can make important industry connections. Aside from equipping the mentees with significant skills and expertise, mentorship programs also introduce them to significant industry connections, therefore reinforcing their career security.
- Mentors can train mentees in a way that directly benefits your company goals. Because entry-level workers often come into the industry as a blank slate, their mentor can train them in a way that best harmonizes with your workplace values and goals.
CREATING A CONSTRUCTION MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
When it comes to actually creating a construction mentorship program, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The direction you take your program will largely depend on your personal goals and available resources, and implementing your program will take quite a bit of strategizing and researching before it gets off the ground. One of your best resources will be looking at how other construction companies have successfully used mentors to deal with their own labor woes and using their experience as a learning tool.
That being said, here are a few general tips to help guide you in the right direction:
- Decide on a main direction for your construction mentorship program. If your main goal is to attract more talent and narrow the skills gap, it’s important to decide who you want to mentor. Do you want to create a program that mainly targets high school kids who are still deciding on careers, or would you like to focus on college students who are entering into degree programs relating to construction? Many companies also use their mentorship programs as an advanced workplace training tool to guide already-existing entry-level employees into advanced positions.
- Find a way to encourage your seasoned employees to participate as mentors. If you know of someone who credits much of their success to a mentor of their own, oftentimes they’ll be happy to take their turn as the adviser. If you don’t have someone like this on your team, you may have to supply some incentives. While some of your employees may want to mentor simply because of the satisfactory nature of passing down one’s hard-earned wisdom, you’ll most likely get more volunteers if you offer some sort of a reward or additional compensation. Take the time to consider what your budget allows, and seek out ways to acquire additional funding for the program.
- Network appropriately to get the word out about your program. If you’re targeting students, network with surrounding high schools, colleges, and career counselors who can point appropriate candidates to your program. If you’re trying to upskill your own employees, send out a company-wide email to see who would be interested. You can then develop an application that evaluates each applicant in a fair, equal manner.
- Decide on the program’s structure. Some companies offer formal mentorship programs that have specific goals and clear deadlines, and they also require all parties to sign legal contracts. Other programs are more laid-back and invest more into the personal relationship that develops between the mentors and the mentees. Another thing to think about is if the program will offer one-on-one style mentoring or if it will be structured as a classroom-style group setting.
- Be strategic in how you pair the mentors and mentees. A tremendous factor in a successful mentor/mentee relationship is how each party gets along and communicates with each other. If you can, try to strategize the pairing so that the relationship is mutually beneficial. In many cases, younger demographics have strong technological skills that they could help their mentors adapt to, ensuring that each person is learning and growing. For a successful relationship, try to focus equally on the skills the parties both possess compared to the skills they each need as well as how well their personalities will click. If you need assistance, there are mentee/mentor matchmaking services and software programs available.
- Evaluate progress regularly. Implementing a mentorship program offers no benefits if you (or the person responsible for managing it) don’t regularly check in to see how it’s evolving. Ask all of your mentors and mentees separately and privately for their feedback. The program will only be effective if all parties feel supported and heard throughout the process, so don’t be afraid to switch up pairings if need be. Consistent feedback will also help you improve and tweak the program for future candidates down the road.
In order for construction companies to reap the benefits of the current growth spurt of the industry, construction leaders are going to have to find viable workarounds to combat the current labor shortage and growing skills gap between new and seasoned workers.
Construction mentorship programs can help encourage young people to consider careers in construction, retain millennials who are interested in professional development, and allow entry-level employees to elevate their skill set and contribute to the workplace in a quicker, more impactful manner.
Hopefully this information encourages you to consider utilizing a mentorship program so that you can find a solution to your own labor pains while powerfully benefiting the younger workforce.
S.R. CLARKE CONSULTING SERVICES, INC. CAN HELP YOU FIND AND HIRE TALENTED CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVES
For over 41 years, our construction search firm has helped companies all over the country find the top talent they need to grow and support their businesses. We always stay informed on current industry issues, so we know exactly how to fine-tune our recruitment strategies to cater to the current construction climate.
We’ve witnessed previous labor shortages, and with our talented team of recruiters and our pool of qualified job seekers, we’ve continued to help companies secure the talent they need to prosper and grow through all of the ebbs and flows the industry has experienced.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help with all of your hiring needs, contact us today!