Residential Metal Roofing Executive Report Marketing, Lead Generation, In-Home Sales, Installation, Referral Maximization

Solving the Labor Shortage: An Expert Opinion

Issue #209 | October 25, 2022 | Ethan Young


If you run a business or hire, fire, and manage personnel, you know how hard it is to find good, qualified, hard-working employees in the construction industry.

Whether more people choose a college degree, the construction industry lacks appeal, wages aren’t competitive, or the career path isn’t compelling, these all contribute to the labor shortage.

For a new perspective on this issue, we spoke with an expert, Dr. Melissa Furman of Augusta University. Besides her academic duties, Dr. Furman runs a consulting firm, Career Potential, that helps businesses find and train new employees. She deals with labor, workplace culture, and policies firsthand.

Her insight into the shortage is grounded in her experience with dozens of businesses. Her first point: construction has an image problem.

People often view construction as a dirty, difficult job with long hours and slim potential for a career. Besides, the push for college is strong; many students pick a four-year degree over a stint in technical school. Tech schools have their own image problem but offer practical, usable education. Both solutions are valid, and we need to encourage kids to seek the right path for themselves.

For a better look at tech schools, we spoke with a local administrator, Tony Trapp. In his program, students take classes during high school and often find jobs right after graduation with local contractors. They transition smoothly from internship to full-time position with a team they like and trust, earning money the whole time. Contrast this with a four-year degree in a crowded or empty field, where finding a job using the degree is futile.

Attending a technical school could benefit many kids, placing them into a career with room for improvement and skill development. Unfortunately, construction’s image problem is persistent.

Dr. Furman’s second point was the role of generations in the workplace. According to her, this is the first time in American history that five generations are working simultaneously. Due to COVID and older workers retiring later, these distinct groups have coincided. A newfound diversity has called into question offices, working from home, language, management styles, expectations, hours, resources, advancement, and more. Typically, these differences breed conflict and misunderstanding.

However, change doesn’t have to strain workplace communication and standards; we can take it as an opportunity to improve. We could all widen our understanding and perspective, creating a work environment that serves everyone as effectively as possible. While older people often stick to one job for decades, younger people aren’t afraid to move around until they find a job that fulfills their desires. Bridging this gap is challenging, and no one has a guaranteed solution.

Dr. Furman recommends that younger people show respect and honor senior employees. Learn from their decades of valuable experience. Similarly, older employees should give younger ones a chance. Listen to their ideas and be willing to experiment with new approaches to work.

Meeting in the middle gives everyone the best chance for success. Compromise moves us toward the best option for everyone, a brighter, more collaborative future. 

Finally, as a construction company owner or manager, please understand that the days of easily assembling a productive, loyal, and long-term team are gone. Now, you need to build your team proactively and strategically. Pay close attention to your personnel; they set you apart from your competitors and are crucial to your future.

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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