According to a recent vox.com article, nearly every industry nowadays is experiencing some kind of labor shortage. Here at PEG Companies, we’ve learned that this shortage is particularly prevalent in the trade industry. Employers are having a harder time filling blue-collar positions than they are filling professional positions that require a college education. Why? Tack it on to the long list of issues for which people like to blame millennials! Data shows millennials have earned more college degrees than any other generation. While the statistic seems encouraging, it is hurting today’s blue-collar workforce and, in some cases, even slowing down development schedules. Vital commercial real estate development partners including plumbers, heating, ventilation and AC workers, framers, electricians, and so forth are stretched thin, and the industry as a whole is clamoring to win back workers.
While the construction field might require people to get their hands dirty, trade workers are not uneducated, their jobs are not unimportant, and their pay is not low. In fact, many trade workers will start their careers far out on top of their “intellectual” counterparts. After spending 4 years in the classroom, many college graduates emerge from their schools with no real industry experience, a heavy burden of debt to repay, and a degree that may or may not have good job placement or value in the workforce. In contrast, trade workers will spend far less time in school, which means they start making money faster. Many will also likely have their tuition paid for by their future employer and will enjoy a guaranteed job after they finish.
Focusing on the Future – Recruiting the Right Way
So, how do we reverse millennials’ mindsets? How do we get millennials to desire the development and construction industry? The truth is that it might be too late for the millennials to join the construction workforce (1997-2010). They were taught from a young age that college was the one way to prosperity, and they already either have their degrees or are in the middle of obtaining them. They have their sights set on the white collar and the corner office. Focus might need to be set on Gen Z, which means high-school and younger college students. Fortunately, the trades are far from ignorant when it comes to this pending issue, and they are working hard to address it. I’ve had the experience of visiting Hunt Electric Headquarters in Salt Lake City to witness how they are building their workforce. Hunt has a sophisticated recruiting platform, designed to attract kids right out of high school. “The average age of an electrician right now is 57,” says Troy Greggory, President of Hunt Electric. “Imagine in a few years how bad it will get when those guys start to retire. We hope to sell some of the younger generation on the benefits of this career path,” Greggory says. Hunt regularly visits high schools to show students an excellent career path option. They offer to pay for their trade schooling up to 100% if they get good grades. Aggressive pay growth over the next four years gives these young men and women the chance to earn over 50% more than the average college graduate at the same point in their lives, with a lot of real industry experience to go along with it. My hope is that other trade companies will follow Hunt Electric’s example and take on this important role of appealing to the rising generation because otherwise, developers everywhere will continue to feel the effects of the trade industry’s growing workforce shortage.
Campbell, Alexia Fernández. “The US Is Experiencing a Widespread Worker Shortage. Here’s Why.” Vox, Vox, 18 Mar. 2019, www.vox.com/2019/3/18/18270916/labor-shortage-workers-us.