Historically, companies will do two things when times get tough: They will curtail their training departments and sales departments.
The world was not prepared for the coronavirus, and there is no denying companies are facing hard decisions. Some companies have been required to do reduction in workforce because projects have been delayed.
Although halting training may be fiscally understandable, it’s short-sighted and hurts your program and the construction industry as a whole in the long run. This is the time to really focus on projects that are going and ensure people are working at their maximum capacity.
Proactive, successful companies have historically managed to maintain training through difficult times. It may not look the same and may be adapted, but progressive companies will not quit training. Why?
1. The skills shortage won’t disappear.
Before COVID-19, the construction industry was already facing an estimated shortage of 1 million skilled workers by 2023. The Associated General Contractors of America found back in August of 2019 that 80% of contractors were having difficulty finding qualified craft professionals.
Training and retaining our workforce must remain a priority or we’ll be facing an even more extreme shortage after the crisis. ManpowerGroup reports that skilled craft professionals and construction laborers remain in the top 10 most difficult roles to fill.
“If you stop your recruiting or apprenticeship programs, it’s like turning off the faucet. A quality workforce program includes recruiting, training and retaining,” said Katrina Kersch, NCCER Chief Operations Officer. “Stopping these activities stops the pipeline of people coming into your organizations that are getting trained, becoming experienced and becoming valuable, skilled craftsmen and women.”
Training remains a top priority for DP Electric; their founder and CEO, Dan Puente, shares, “The growth of our people is the growth of our company.” Despite being in the midst of the pandemic, DP Electrical has started an apprenticeship program that launched July 27, 2020.
2. Training increases productivity.
Doing targeted, job site specific training helps get workers reengaged and increases productivity. Concerns about job security and the industry are prevalent across the workforce — training helps combat those feelings of apprehension.
“It sends a powerful message to the individual that you’re investing in them because they are part of the success of the organization,” shares Kersch. “It’s just intrinsically such a part of making your employees feel valuable.”
Continued training during this time also builds your sense of community in your workplace culture. The McKinsey Engineering, Construction and Building Materials Practice points out that “balancing performance and health is critical at any point in time — and it’s that much more important in these turbulent times.”
3. It’s strategic.
To be an employer of choice in construction is all about training and retaining your workforce.
Although the industry is being impacted by the pandemic, it is more of a dip for construction compared to other harder hit industries like hospitality and leisure, retail and health services such as dentistry.
Instead of ‘turning off the electricity to save on electricity when times get tough’, it is an opportunity to be more strategic.
The most progressive companies will explore how to leverage the downtimes by dynamically allocating talent.
In addition, companies have typically already invested significantly in establishing workforce development programs to recruit. During times when companies are not bringing new people in, trying to maintain the employees that you may have already invested in with a year or two in training is tactically important.
“It’s becoming clear that the world will be different as we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis to the next normal.” In their article, “How Construction Can Emerge Stronger After Coronavirus”, the McKinsey Engineering, Construction and Building Materials Practice calls for five stages of action as companies plan their path forward: resolve, resilience, return, reimagination and reform.
The industry has an opportunity to reimagine and reform the future while remaining resilient.
This momentary slump cannot affect the construction industry’s vision for the future. As an essential business, the world needs construction, from quickly building hospitals to donating personal protective equipment. We remain the industry that builds America.