As we enter the second quarter of 2019, I reflect on the list of main issues we had as subcontractors in 2018. There is no surprise that the same issues are pressing, with a shortage of qualified workers leading the list. We have jobs to fill in this industry but not enough skilled workers to take them. While this is good news for the pool of workers out there, it presents a real challenge for us as subcontractors.
So once again we must ask ourselves what we can do to attract new talent and to retain the employees that we already have on board. At my company, we have turned to our employees to see what things are most important to them. Among the top answers are wages, vacation and paid holidays, insurance and plenty of backlog to keep them steadily working. These are the kinds of things that will draw new employees to the company.
As an industry we need to get out, solicit and recruit more labor for construction. One of the ways we have been successful at my company is through recruitment drives at rural schools that have trade programs. For students who don’t want to go to college, we tell them about the process of starting out as an apprentice, moving up to a mechanic, and hopefully on from there to becoming a foreman. We tell them about the time it takes and the potential money they can earn along the way.
This industry as a whole has to sell the fact there are good opportunities that come from learning a trade. It is only one way to increase your labor pool, but it is a good place to start.
In addition to being 2018–2019 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Jerry Smith is president of Baker Drywall Austin, Ltd.