Making The Labor Shortage Work To Your Advantage
Here at Isaiah Industries, authors of the Residential Metal Roofing Executive Report, we hear the following from contractors every day: “The limiting factor to my business growth is finding skilled labor to do installation.” It’s a very serious situation and we do not see any potential for it to get better even if the economy turns around and unemployment rises.
However, successful business people will always tell you that a key to their success was making lemonade out of lemons – taking a bad situation and playing to it or living into it for their advantage.
For home improvement contractors who are providing high quality, long-lasting products and services, there very much is a way to make the labor shortage work to your advantage. The below sample narrative to a homeowner explains exactly why, given the labor situation, they need to work with your company. Read on!
Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
I need to talk to you about a big issue that is impacting the way homeowners maintain and improve their homes, today and in the future. And that is the shortage of skilled labor. Here at AAA Home Improvement, we have a great long-term installation crew that allows us to meet homeowner needs very well but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this labor shortage you hear about on the news almost every night is very real and it’s probably having a bigger impact on home improvement than any other industry.
When you hear the news stories, though, they talk about low unemployment being the culprit. But, for our industry, it goes much deeper than that. We began feeling the labor shortage years before unemployment dropped to its current low levels. Let me explain…
Today’s labor force in home improvement construction consists primarily of folks who grew up in the industry and are now in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and sometimes even beyond that. These guys and in some cases ladies grew up during a time when kids were outside all of the time. They grew up playing outside, helping their parents in the yard and garden, hunting, fishing, you name it. So, as they entered the work force, jobs that involved being outside were not only nothing uncommon to them but, in many cases, they actually appealed to them.
On the other hand, today’s work force grew up very differently. I actually love today’s upcoming Millennial work force. They have a lot of great qualities but, let’s face it, they grew up doing things inside not outside. So, when they enter the work force, the idea of working outside is both foreign to them and unappealing to them.
And, with the way that our country is changing, they can easily find inside jobs, even at entry-level positions. Fields like call centers, medical, and technology are hiring right and left. In many cases, those industries have brought jobs back to the US that at one time were in India and other offshore countries. We’re seeing high wages in those fields and good benefits with progressive employers. Even the fast food industry offers entry-level work that is more appealing to today’s younger workers than being outside and climbing on top of roofs.
In construction, we’re seeing a huge trend to more work being done inside of huge plants, because they can find workers to work inside. Contrary to popular belief, it’s really not manual labor that the new work force is afraid of. What keeps them away from our industry are things like trying to work in all sorts of weather, climbing up ladders and on roofs – things that are just completely outside their realm of experience and past exposure.
And when you do look at the actual in-the-field construction industry, you find that large national and regional contractors have swallowed up virtually every available worker out there, with wages from $35 – $60 per hour for near entry level workers. One reality is also that the construction industry used to employ a lot of illegals but there simply are not as many of them entering the country at this point and many that were here have returned home.
So, how does this current and ongoing worker shortage impact you and your home improvement projects? It’s really pretty simple – for companies like mine, the installation labor on the work we do is becoming the major cost driver in how we have to price jobs. In most cases today, the total cost for labor is more than the cost of materials. In fact, we can easily see where, within a few years, labor will be 60% of our job cost. It used to be more around 20%.
So, where does that leave homeowners? The reality is that the increase in the cost of home improvements in future years is going to far outpace the economy and inflation. So, as a consumer, the only way to avoid this is to choose sustainable, long-lasting products that are properly installed by a professional contractor. By making wise choices, you can avoid these increased costs and the lack of labor by not having to buy a new roof every 15 years, not having to replace your windows every 20 years, not having to remodel your bathroom every 10 years, and so forth.
That’s where our company comes into the picture. We have worked hard to choose only quality, innovative, and long-lasting products to offer to our customers, and we back those products with meticulous installation. By building sustainably as you remodel your home, you can control your future home maintenance costs. Otherwise, they are going to do nothing but increase, driven largely by the skilled labor required to install those products.
So, there you have it – how to make today’s worker shortage play to your advantage by offering high quality products and services to your prospects.
One last thing before I close. Here at Isaiah Industries, we are committed to providing as much training as possible for the metal roofing industry. On Tuesday, January 29, we will hold a one-day metal shingle training class at our indoor training facility in Piqua, Ohio. This class is free and attendees will receive certificates verifying their attendance. While we will focus on metal shingle installation, the flashing methods and details we teach apply to virtually all types of metal roofs. If you’d like to RSVP for attendance at this great training, please call us at 1-800-543-8938.
Thanks so much. Please feel free to contact me anytime.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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