By 2022, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that job openings in highway construction and maintenance, as well other transportation-related occupations, will be 68% higher than the number of people currently in training to fill those positions. On top of that, four out of 10 U.S. construction workers are expected to retire by 2031. To address the ongoing and anticipated shortage of workers, the industry must cultivate the next generation of skilled construction laborers. But attracting young people to careers in construction is an uphill battle, as millennials and Gen Z are more interested in four-year degrees and white-collar jobs.
When the National Association of Homebuilders surveyed young adults aged 18-25 on their potential career paths, only three percent of respondents who were sure about their career plans said they were interested in working in construction. The top reasons for their disinterest were the physical demands and difficulty of the work, as well as the desire for an office job.
Over the years, the military has had similar problems attracting young recruits. Young adults’ perceptions about careers in the military also echo some of their opinions about construction, citing the work as too dangerous and other fields being more compelling. However, the military appears to be having success appealing to reluctant young candidates despite this. In 2020, the Army reported that it exceeded its 2019 recruitment goals.
How to Reach Millennials and Gen Z Workers with Military Recruitment Tactics
Given their shared image problems, if the construction sector were to borrow from the military’s recruiting playbook, it might experience the same success. The military has focused on three tactics that the construction industry can easily adopt.
1. Appeal to digital natives
As digital natives, millennials and Gen Z grew up with fast-evolving technology. They prefer informal, experiential learning environments, and they’re used to making on-the-spot, data-driven decisions. The Army has successfully tapped into young people’s affinity for gaming and experiential learning through a number of initiatives, including its esports team, which competes in the burgeoning competitive gaming sector, and America’s Army, a free video game that gives players a realistic idea of what combat is like. Due to the game’s success, other branches of the military have adopted gaming and simulation programs to reach and train new recruits.
The construction industry can apply the same logic of providing digital natives with the kinds of technology and learning experiences that they seek. For instance, education institutions, technology companies, and construction stakeholders can collaborate to create programs that expose young people to the latest construction technology, like extended reality, robotics, drones, and autonomous vehicles.
To learn how 17 colleges and universities are helping to train the next
generation of skilled construction workers, read the article.
2. Prepare young people for the future of work
Seventy percent of young adults fear they’ll lack at least some of the skills necessary to stay relevant in the workforce as technology advances. The Army combatted this concern with its “What’s Your Warrior” campaign, which demonstrates the wide variety of options that a military career offers, including technology-enabled roles in science, technology, engineering, and math.
To attract young adults who are concerned about their future job prospects, the construction industry needs to change the perception that construction work revolves around hard hats, hammers, and hard work. New innovations like Trimble SiteVision, an augmented reality tool that allows stakeholders to visualize designs in their actual visual environment, are transforming the nature of construction work. AEC professionals that invest in innovative tools gain a competitive recruiting edge by offering young people access to the technologies they want to use and need to stay relevant.
3. Improve safety with technology
The military is also leveraging technology to improve safety. For example, virtual reality consoles were used to train young service members on how to operate the upgraded Patriot Missile system. The virtual environment allowed for hands-on training without the risks of using real-life equipment.
Similarly, technology like the Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2, a mixed reality solution that makes it possible to train workers in a controlled environment, is improving construction safety. Trimble is also partnering with Boston Dynamics to integrate Spot the robot dog with its 3D laser scanning, enabling the safe collection of site data and performance of other automated tasks in high-risk environments. By using this type of safety-enhancing technology, AEC professionals are embedding safety directly into their workflows, instead of treating it like an afterthought or separate initiative.
Using Connected Construction to Attract the Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers
Though the construction sector has been slow to adopt new technologies, there are already a wide variety of innovations shaping the future of construction work. In addition to improving jobsite safety, efficiency, and collaboration, these tools can help overcome the construction industry’s image problem and attract high-quality candidates. By adopting and highlighting Connected Construction technologies, construction firms can offer young people the exposure and training they need to build long-lasting, gratifying careers.
To learn more about how technology can be used to attract the next generation of skilled construction workers, read the article.