The Hardest Construction Jobs to Fill [and What Contractors are Doing About It]

Category: Crew | By Dawn Killough | 5 minute read | Updated May 16, 2023

The construction industry’s labor shortage and difficulty hiring younger workers have been in the news for decades. With the rise of technology, college education has been seen as the ultimate career goal for most young people. Even those who’ve struggled in traditional educational environments have been encouraged to go to college and get a degree. This leaves a lot of other jobs unfilled, as everyone strives for a diploma.

Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Autodesk teamed up to perform a survey of contractors in the construction industry related to workforce issues. Their 2022 Workforce Survey highlighted the continuing struggles companies are having in attracting and hiring younger workers to fill both trade and office positions. Some highlights of the results include:

  • 93% of respondents have open positions, with most positions being in the trades or crafts
  • 91% said they were having difficulty filling these positions
  • When interviewing candidates, 77% said they lacked the required skills or couldn’t pass a drug test

The inability to hire younger workers and fill open positions directly affects a contractor’s ability to perform their work. This leads to project delays and cost increases. 66% of survey respondents said they had been on projects with delays due to a labor shortage. Just to keep up with the workload, contractors are looking to other options, like hiring temporary workers from staffing agencies or subcontracting out work that they would normally do in-house.

The Hardest Construction Jobs to Fill

Overall, the hardest positions to fill are skilled workers in the field. In the survey, 70% said craftspeople were the most difficult jobs to fill. Within that category, the most difficult trades included:

  • Pipelayers
  • Concrete workers
  • Mechanics
  • Truck drivers
  • Carpenters
  • Ironworkers
  • Pipefitters/welders

Companies are also having difficulty filling office positions, like project managers and estimators. These are often seen as the “less glamorous” positions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important and necessary.

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How Contractors are Addressing the Labor Shortage

Contractors are using several strategies to attempt to attract younger workers and improve their pool of candidates. Many are reaching out on social media and using other electronic means to appeal to a younger audience. In addition, they’ve worked hard to make construction jobs more attractive through a variety of solutions:

  • 86% are raising their base pay rates
  • 51% are partnering with educational and apprenticeship programs to gain access to prospects and increase advertising about these programs
  • 47% have increased their training and professional development budgets
  • 45% are offering increased incentives and bonuses both upon hiring and to reward performance
  • 24% are increasing benefits or offering non-traditional offerings

One roofing company is offering its workers plenty of non-traditional benefits, including happy hours, BBQ trucks at job sites, holiday parties, company retreats, and baseball games. Another roofing and gutter contractor is offering maternity leave and gift cards to various hotspots around town.

In addition to the above tactics, employers can implement policy and culture changes that can make your company more attractive to prospective workers. This includes:

  1. Ensuring that your company culture revolves around treating workers well, and making sure that everyone knows about it.
  2. Prioritizing safety and employee health and wellness through your business practices and benefits.
  3. Embracing technology to improve efficiency in all of your business practices.

Further advice from contractors who are making it work:

  • “We are putting an effort behind our social media outreach, looking to hire and develop the right individuals, have a strong focus on the safety of our people, and provide the opportunity to grow and promote from within our organization.” Mikula Contracting
  • “We recently teamed up with a manufacturer to conduct a week-long training course for anyone interested in learning about roofing. The program includes breakfast and lunch, and attendees will get paid to be there.” A1 Roofing
  • “We are attracting candidates by providing them with learning experiences from professional workers, including workshops and coaching. We also offer a mentoring program once new workers come on board with us.” Blu Corporate Housing
  • “We’ve begun offering the highest wage for our services in the city. We offer benefits that aren’t common in the industry, such as paid time off and company vehicles and pay for all kinds of expenses, bonuses, and incentives. I've put a ridiculous amount of work into fostering a positive, friendly, and happy work environment.” Nepean Drain Cleaning
  • “We're resorting to blind hiring. By removing demographics from the evaluation process, we've hired a more diverse workforce. We've been able to hire more people who have a wide range of skills and talents.” Simple Homebuyers

If you’re struggling to attract and find competent workers for your contracting business, there are a variety of things you can do. Evaluate your current working culture and make sure that it is open and friendly to new workers, provides training and education, and that you’re offering competitive pay and benefits. Reaching out through non-traditional means, like social media, may also help your company stand out from the rest.

For an in-depth look at the residential construction forecast for 2023, check out this article.

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