The American job market has been seeing historically low unemployment levels for some time now, meaning it’s harder for employers to find qualified job applicants to fill key positions. But some industries are feeling the sting of the tight labor market more painfully than others.
Tight Labor Market in Construction
The construction industry in particular is finding it difficult to recruit and train qualified employees. “With the retirement of baby boomers in full swing, the construction industry is grappling with its biggest challenge: refilling its pool of employees,” says Jason M. Bailey, an author for The New York Times.
Specifically, Bailey says, the industry is seeing resistance from young workers pursuing careers in construction. They either believe the industry to be unstable or are reacting to long-standing exhortations from their parents to pursue a college education. Overall, says Bailey, they are finding jobs in this field to be undesirable.
The Stigma of Construction Jobs
Indeed, industry advocates argue that despite competitive salaries—
the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median wage for construction equipment operators at roughly $47,000 per year—and no requirement to pursue a costly and time-consuming advanced degree, blue-collar jobs are often stigmatized in the minds of younger jobseekers.
Bailey adds that demographic and societal changes mean that younger generations are often unfamiliar with operating any kind of heavy machinery, noting that Millennials and Generation Z are more likely to have grown up playing “Call of Duty” rather than driving a tractor on the family farm.
Gamification to the Rescue?
Faced with labor shortages and some negative perceptions about the jobs they have to offer, some are exploring more innovative ways to connect with younger audiences, leveraging their love of technology toward that end.
Some construction companies, for instance, are purchasing simulators in an attempt to connect a video-game-focused culture to the world of bulldozers and cranes. Realistic, digital simulations are seen as a potential means of recruiting and training younger generations for operating this construction equipment in real-life, on-the-job settings.
Whether leveraging the younger generations’ appetite for video game tech and all things digital will help attract and train younger workers in the construction industry remains to be seen. But the effort illustrates the challenge many industries are facing with not only recruiting young talent but also finding effective ways to keep them engaged.