Attracting & Retaining Talent in the Trade Industry

The U.S. commercial and residential construction industry is booming with work; spending on new projects peaked at $1 trillion in late 2017. However, the industry remains challenged by chronic labor shortages. Many builders are finding that they need to renegotiate project timelines and costs due to a lack of skilled labor.

Recruiting Skilled Labor is a Nationwide Issue

Houston and Florida, faced with rebuilding after massive hurricanes Irma and Harvey, have made national news as they struggled to staff skilled trades positions. But the issue is widespread from coast to coast. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders recently found that 82% of its members believe the cost and lack of availability of labor are their biggest issues. By comparison only 13% cited labor as their biggest worry in 2011.

In a recent survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, builders and developers shared that they are wondering where they’ll find more skilled labor as U.S. demand for new construction jobs rises to roughly 210,000 per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Following the recession of 2008, more than 1.5 million highly skilled residential construction workers fled from their jobs as carpenters, electricians, masons, and plumbers. While the Great Recession may have been a unique dip in the construction industry, the fact remains that fewer than half of those workers have returned to their construction-related jobs, making it more difficult and costly for homebuilders to staff up.

Compounding the situation is a focus on college vs. trades at the high-school level and a quickly aging workforce. In fact, the average age of U.S. construction workers is over age 50.

How to Attract Talent in the Trade Industry

With this in mind, workforce planning, recruiting, developing and retaining talent is more important than ever to the construction industry. Construction companies that recognize this fact will have a key strategic advantage over their competitors. This is where bringing in a team of Human Resources (HR) specialists can make a significant difference in a construction company’s growth and productivity. Often, firms are reluctant to divert time, money, or other resources to an area historically viewed as “administrative,” but in reality this investment can improve your business’ overall efficiency.  Is it time for your firm to increase your investment in HR resources?

Here are some things to consider:

  • Is your firm actively recruiting talent at all times? Should you have an employee referral program (and what would it look like)?
  • Are you leveraging your local community trade schools, high schools, two-year colleges and job fairs to their fullest potential?
  • Once hired, do your tradesmen and women receive focused skill development from experienced workers?  Are your best workers your best teachers?
  • Do you know if your full compensation package (wages, benefits, bonuses, and other perks) is as competitive as it should be (both at the time of hire as well as on an annual basis)?
  • Do you administer policies, practices, and performance reviews in a fair and compliant manner?
  • Is your company culture one that is enticing and motivating to all generations of employees?
  • Do you and your managers have an expert that you can turn to as you contemplate people related strategies and concerns?

Sikich offers a wide range of HR Consulting and Advisory Services that can help construction and trade organizations spend their time doing what they love – building – while receiving experienced guidance on a variety of human resources issues.  If you would like to learn more about how we can work with you to address your HR challenges, please contact your Sikich advisor.


This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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