The shortage in qualified craft labor is primarily a function of industry image driven by educational policy changes starting in 1985. The deeper problem is the critical shortage in the band of the population providing leadership, management and deep technical expertise.
Developing the skills and network of relationships required to manage the increasing complexity of today’s construction projects takes 20+ years. This is not something unique to the construction industry but something that impacts the military, the technology industry and every other industry. We are facing a long-term shortage of people across the United States in this critical age band due to declining birth rates between 1960-1975. This problem has been known about for a long time and many other industries started aggressively ramping up their talent acquisition and development capabilities in the late 1990’s.
The bottom line is that talent at this level is a scarce resource and getting scarcer every year. As with any other natural resource such as oil when you reach this point you must focus on new methods of finding the resource (fracking), improve your refining techniques to deal with a wider range of crude oil, find ways to conserve such as cars with higher mileage ratings and finally you must look at alternative energy sources.
For contractors to continue to grow sustainably they must invest in talent development heavier than at any time in the last few decades. Since 2005 we have seen a dramatic shift in how much time we spend with clients on talent related issues from hiring to compensation to succession. We now spend over half of our time helping clients accelerate the talent development on their teams. We’ve learned a lot of lessons and are continuing to refine our approach. There is no single magic bullet that we’ve seen but we do know that the future of construction will go to the contractors with the best teams.