Shifting Gears: It’s Time to Focus on the Industry’s Mounting Skills Gap


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A Well-Trained Workforce Can Help Retain Workers, Enhance Productivity and Boost Profits

There’s been a lot written lately about the construction industry’s labor shortage and the desperate need to replace the estimated quarter of a million workers expected to retire over the next decade. Experts predict that production in many markets will weaken as a result.

Many business owners have first-hand experience of not having a skilled team of workers. When companies struggle to meet increasing client demands due to lack of skilled tradesmen, they miss project milestones, and owners are often required to extend schedules for projects. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for owners to be more hesitant to bid on new projects knowing they lack the necessary manpower to staff them.

Unfortunately, with fewer skilled professionals available for projects within their own teams, many construction companies end up spending more money than expected – and on fewer projects. Some of this can be attributed to rising costs of bids and contracts, and the prolonged amount of time it takes to complete projects with fewer capable workers.

Upskilling, or training, employees not only prepares businesses for an uptick in work, but it also lays the foundation to develop the ability to retain workers. In fact, recent research shows that today’s workers are more likely to stay with construction firms that offer training programs.

Research from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation shows that many leading contractors realize that in order to remain competitive in today’s competitive market, they must approach talent development like a business investment. If employers define their role as that of the end-customer, then they can develop realistic solutions to the skills gap.

Training current workers is a critical aspect of this shift in perspective, and it can help develop a more cross-trained, well-rounded workforce, as well as increase a construction firm’s effectiveness.

Use Technology to Help Retool Your Workforce

Until now, it’s been cumbersome for business owners and project managers to identify those workers within their organization in need of retraining or developing and enhancing their skills.

Accessing real-time data related to a worker’s skill set simply hasn’t been readily available, and most project managers’ only option to uncover these critical details was to refer to old-school training logs, a colleague’s memory or word-of-mouth, among other outdated methods.

To resolve this issue, construction business owners can now leverage the latest technology solutions to easily access accurate information surrounding their workers’ skill sets, improving overall operations from the office to the field. Much of this customized technology provides real-time access to data on all sides, regardless of where the work is taking place, using an up-to-date, single set of data that can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. It can also provide pertinent information reflecting gaps in a team of workers so project managers can effectively identify what they need to do to retrain or upskill workers.

Additionally, the technology can be used to access detailed data surrounding required worker certifications. The data can help supervisors more easily identify any gaps between certifications, with the support of detailed charts and extensive reporting capabilities. In addition, the data can be leveraged to analyze which workers have logged specific amounts of time in a particular area, for instance, a crane operator, to help them determine if someone is an ideal candidate for upskilling in related areas of work.

Another use case can be seen in the following scenario: Perhaps a project manager needs to schedule a worker to operate a 75-ton excavator as part of an essential project that must stay on schedule. However, real-time data insights reveal this worker hasn’t operated an excavator of that size in nearly two years. The technology will provide alerts that this worker needs to refresh his or her training related to running an excavator.

The latest technology solutions offer a wide range of benefits when it comes to upskilling or training workers, including the ability to:

  • Easily and quickly track workers in one place
  • Store and organize all personal contact information for employees, including tracking the jobs they have worked and the equipment they can operate
  • Automatically match skills and requirements to tasks and activities
  • Only schedule compliant workers
  • Track training progress, and add custom skills/tags to workers

 Looking Ahead: Using Upskilling and Training to Embrace Opportunity

The construction industry is on the tipping point of fundamental change. How organizations are gearing up to deal with this disruption varies significantly, however, most are starting to recognize that failure to adapt could result in being left behind.

Instead of lamenting the challenges that lie ahead, business leaders must embrace the opportunities that the latest technology offers, and harness efforts to ensure a highly-skilled construction workforce that is ready to meet the road ahead.

Those contractors open to adopting newer, more collaborative construction tools – and shifting their approach by upskilling current workers – will ultimately eliminate many inefficiencies, improve production, help workers meet more deadlines and develop a more sustainable workforce.