Attracting New Talent

Chip McAlpin / May 2021

This month I want to focus on attracting new, young people to our industry. I see this as one of the more pressing issues we face. This issue is not only impacting the construction industry—hiring good, qualified people is something businesses as a whole face.
As you know, there is a severe shortage of skilled labor in our industry, which I attribute mainly to the negative perception of the construction industry and the push by our education system to steer students to college. While I am sure most of us have issues with these reasons, I would like to touch on a few ways I believe we can do a better job of getting new and especially younger individuals interested in our industry.
I feel that most people outside of our industry do not really know what we do. They may see a new building going up at the mall, or their office being renovated, but that is about the extent of it. I truly believe if we all took the time to show people what we do we could see a positive impact. Showing our youth different aspects of construction and how rewarding the work is could improve their interest in our industry.
Also, I have heard many times over my career that we need to hire more qualified people. While I certainly agree with hiring the best possible candidates, I also believe that we must be open and willing to invest in the people we hire to train them into the workers we want and need. If we focus on helping people get better at what they do, before we know it we will have the qualified help we have been trying to find for years. I also believe everyone needs to do their part in supporting the different organizations/groups that offer technical training.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize the need to not only attract new people to the construction industry but also especially to our trades. I feel that in most cases, particularly in construction programs at colleges and universities, most of what is taught pertains to working for a general contractor. I think we need to make a bigger push to see what we can do to get programs such as these to incorporate more of our businesses into the curriculum. I believe we all just need to be better at promoting our trades to people interested in the construction industry.
I want to leave you with this: As I like to say, if you want to watch it being built, go to work for a general contractor, if you want to build it, come to work with us.

In addition to being 2020–2021 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Chip McAlpin is division president of the Jackson, Miss., and Louisiana offices of F.L. Crane & Sons.