How to attract young workers into the construction industry using digital innovations

Adopting digital tools to attract young recruits

The construction industry is currently facing the same sort of long-term staffing problem as many other industries: how to attract the next generation of young workers into a career that some see as unappealing and out of date. In a context of increased retirement rates in the industry due to a reliance on the baby boom generation, attracting and retaining a younger workforce will be key for business sustainability.  

One possible solution – adopting new technology into the business – has the potential to greatly change the age demographic of the workforce, alongside all the other benefits that going digital entails. 

Construction’s image problem and its impact on recruitment 

For many years, construction has suffered from an image problem leading to a talent shortage. As describes it: “A limited talent pool has been stretched even thinner, and companies often struggle to find skilled workers … a decades-long emphasis on college degrees has steered young people away from the trades as a viable career option.” A similar situation can also be seen in many countries throughout Europe, including Belgium, where there was “a severe shortage of candidates to fill [construction] positions” in 2019 according to Jean-Pierre Waeytens of the Flemish Federation Bouwunie, and the Netherlands, where “60% of companies in the building sector” were expecting difficulties in filling jobs in 2018. 

Construction work is often negatively perceived as being physically demanding, and younger generations increasingly favour ‘new economy’ type jobs, which can offer a very different working experience. For example, trends in other industries have shown a growing preference for flexible working and ‘good fit’ cultures. 

However, it’s not all bad news for construction. Recent data compiled by recruitment agency Randstad Construction, Property & Engineering showed that salaries across the sector in the UK, for example, rose by 9% in the 12 months to 31 May 2019, and average pay rose from £42,300 a year ago to £45,900.  

Replace paper or Excel sheets to collect on site hours worked

Of course, money isn’t the only part of the conversation, but a good standard of pay will always appeal in any industry. So, the financial rewards available within construction will undoubtedly mean that this sector still has some appeal – the question is how best to build on this and convince young workers that it really is a career worth pursuing. 

Adopting digital tools to attract young recruits 

The uptake of modern tech is relentless in all walks of life and it is inevitable that construction will continue to experience this, too. Attracting younger generations now will ensure the long-term prosperity of the sector and also help to make this transition easier. As time goes on, the older generations who currently provide the backbone of the industry will eventually reach retirement, leaving a void in the workforce. This will have to be filled by younger workers who have the added bonus of generally being more tech-savvy and therefore better positioned to add value during the transition to a digital workplace.  

A company that is working with the latest and smartest technology will be more attractive to a younger generation that may actively be seeking a career offering these opportunities. As Chad Hollingsworth, co-founder and CEO of Triax Technologies, explains:  

“Millennials have grown up attached to technology … They expect new solutions to do their job better, to get rid of manual processes.”  

Chad Hollingsworth, co-founder and CEO of Triax Technologies

By implementing and demonstrating the use of technology such as smartphones and tablets, the stereotypical image of the construction sector can be challenged and made more appealing. Seeing cutting-edge tech like robots, drones, artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality in action can make a real difference to recruiting a younger workforce. 

Using modern tech to increase efficiency in construction 

Aside from making the industry a more attractive proposition, investing in technology can also improve the efficiency, speed and accuracy of construction operations. For example, by using smartphones and tablets, our operational data collection solutions mean that valuable site data can be assembled and managed much more efficiently. This almost real-time information allows a much more proactive decision-making process to be incorporated, with the beneficial impacts of this being felt by teams across the company. 

The fact of the matter now is that if a company simply stands by and just hopes that more talented young people will come to it, this approach is unlikely to be very successful. Embracing digital tech and then spreading the word through marketing campaigns will enhance your global notoriety and help to address problems around the scarcity of young talent. 

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