Over the past 30 days I have traveled to almost a dozen cities throughout Iowa to speak with hundreds of contractors about the future of Iowa’s commercial construction workforce. So far, no one has really thought that this topic is too exciting, but they all overwhelming agree on one thing: we need more workers!
Since most of you reading this are already in the industry, I’m not sure it’s a wise use of time to rehash all of the reasons we need an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to workforce at this stage in the game, but in case you need reminded…
- During the recession of 2008, approximately 35% of our workforce left and never returned
- 20% of our workforce will retire over the next 10 years
- The average age of a construction worker in Iowa is currently 46 years, that’s a full 10 years higher than the overall workforce average
- Construction spending continues to rise
- 73% of construction companies are having trouble filling hourly and salaried positions
Now that we’ve got that part behind us, let’s talk about 3 reasons it would behoove our industry to begin acting on the solutions rather than talking about the problems.
- It is simpler than you might think. When we talk about taking action to solve a problem, what could be easier than following a playbook that has already been assembled for you? By using the Construction Week resources that have already been created, you don’t have to spend time and energy re-inventing the wheel to be active in solving this problem.
- The industry’s reputation is on the line. Our industry has historically been known for being filled with tough, persistent and resilient people who know how to get the job done. People who can see a problem and immediately put an action plan together for solving it. My 6 year-old son came to me a couple weeks ago and complained about a particular issue for the second or third time in as many weeks, and I had to sit him down and have one of those ‘life lesson’ kind of discussions. I explained that if he ever discovers himself complaining about something that is within his power to correct, he needs to put a plan together and get to work on fixing it. I talk with far too many contractors who love to talk about the problem, but haven’t taken a single step in the direction of resolving it. In my opinion, we have a clear action plan in place that anyone can take advantage of, but getting started will always be the toughest part.
- If it’s going to be, it’s up to me (and by me, I mean you). Have you ever come across one of those things in your life that you weren’t excited about, but you had to do anyway? A co-worker of mine was recently telling me a story about her hatred for doing laundry, but of course she had to do it because if she didn’t, there would soon be no clothes to wear. Solving Iowa’s workforce shortage is going to be a lot like that. The issue is clearly more long term than washing some clothes, but if a strong pipeline of workers is not established by yesterday, our contractors are going to end up trying to build masterpieces with resources that simply don’t exist. So you may not be excited about it now, but if you’re not already doing it, you need to start doing some laundry.
For any questions about how you can be involved in Construction Week, or MBI’s workforce initiative, you can reach me at MLoveless@mbionline.com or 515.657.4398.