Nationally, many business firms have difficulty finding skilled employees to fill open slots and replace those nearing retirement. This is doubly true for construction firms. During the Great Recession, the construction industry plummeted. Many builders, general contractors, as well as subcontracting firms closed. Employees sought out other industries, or moved away. The struggle to find construction employees worsens as the economy expands. Those who leave the construction industry aren’t returning because new opportunities continuously arise in their ‘new’ professions. This limits many construction firms’ growth. However, some firms pursue creative or nontraditional approaches with hiring and retaining talent and have shown strong success.
1. Use Craigslist…with a different twist.
Courtney Keene is director of operations for My Roofing Pal. It’s an online marketplace connecting people with the best local, residential and commercial home improvement contractors. She helps firms find employees efficiently by using Craigslist. “Everyone thinks Craigslist is a thing of the past, but the truth is many job-seekers still search Craigslist daily.” To avoid wading through generic submissions, they “set up an automatic response that linked to a form the applicant needed to fill out listing their experience and qualifications.”
They only review completed forms, thus drastically reducing the time spent reviewing applicants. Unqualified and barely-interested applicants rarely take the time to complete additional steps. Essentially, they self-select out. This methodology had two benefits. First, according to Keene, it was “a great way to avoid the flood of unqualified applications from general job sites”. Second, she continues, “they were able to find a suitable employee in just over two weeks.”
2. Cultivate ties to your local trade school or program.
Sometimes, it’s necessary to pursue the less experienced candidates and provide them with experience and training. That’s what several construction firms have done. Over the last three decades, many urban and suburban school systems shut down their high school vocational programs and high schools. Fortunately, public and private post-secondary vocational and technical schools rose to fill the void. General construction trade schools typically provide training in carpentry, masonry and general trades. Specialized schools target electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians.
You can target graduates or near graduates of the construction trade programs and first or second years in specialized trades. They probably have little hands-on experience, so you’ll likely need to provide apprentice opportunities to prepare them for the job. The good news? Most schools teach students to read blueprints and manage projects – skills that most general laborers don’t have.
3. Look to your local hardware store.
Another source that construction company owners and managers should consider more frequently are their local hardware stores. “We ask local construction supply stores like ACE Hardware or Lowe’s if we can hang our help wanted posters in their windows, or anywhere in the store,” says Jeff McLean, co-owner of McLean Company in Danvers, Massachusetts. He continues, “Construction professionals are constantly going to these stores to pick up materials for their current jobs, and many of them are only on the job for a contracted period.”
In other words, many firms hire construction workers as sub-contractors, or to complete a particular project. Since McLean’s company wants full-time employees, ads appeal to those seeking full-time work and job security. McLean further states, “This strategy is completely free, and provides us with highly qualified employees.”
If you’ve desperately tried to find construction employees to staff your projects, consider implementing one or more of these ideas. Although some involve investing a large amount of time, money or both, the expected return-on-investment is well worth it.