What Happened to Skilled Workers?

What Happened to Skilled Workers?

If you’re in the roofing contracting industry, you’ve probably been frustrated by what seems like a lack of talent in the workforce. Finding a skilled team of workers seems almost impossible and if you’ve had this thought, you’re not alone.

According to a 2017 study, one of the most significant challenges facing roofing contractors and professionals in the roofing industry is a lack of qualified labor. Finding, attracting, hiring, and training skilled workers are just a few of the biggest challenges contractors face. Every member of a contracting workforce represents the company and the level of quality customers expect. Workers are a company’s most valuable asset, above any tool or technology, the labor force interacts with customers, performs the work and represents the company from project start to finish.

Vocational and Technical Education

So where did all the skilled workers go? Not too long ago, vocational programs were a viable education path for many young adults entering the workforce. Skills training started in high school and helped young people move from school to a well-paying job. A job that could support a family and provide long-term career opportunities. During the last 40 years, more and more people decided on a path from high school to college. Then, moving into the workforce with a degree, often with thousands of dollars in debt. As the path shifted from entering the workforce and learning a trade to a college education, many vocational schools closed their doors due to lack of interest and funding. Because of this gap in skills training, the industry is missing a generation of employees.

Economic Downturn

Around this same time, the industry was hit with another curveball, an economic downturn. Many skilled workers left during the downturn and never came back, leaving jobs open with no one to fill them. As time went on, and the industry improved, we started to see the true impact of the dismantled vocational schools and skilled workers pursuing work in other industries. As Forbes noted, “Hundreds of thousands of workers left the field in the downturn, changing career paths or retiring altogether. Young adults haven’t clamored to enter the field and even for the ones that have, training programs have shrunk or evaporated altogether.”

Generation Gap

As we discussed, the move from trade programs to higher education left many industries without skilled workers, especially the roofing contractor sector. The National Association of Home Builders economists has determined the median age of workers in the overall construction sector is 42. This is higher than most other industries as the sector struggles to attract younger workers – National Roofing Contractors Association

In recent years, while the number of skilled workers shrank, the number of available jobs started to rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment of construction laborers and helpers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The need to fill these positions is critical to the success of companies, the quality of construction and time spent on projects. The key to attracting and retaining skilled workers is now on the shoulders of business owners, many of whom have to provide training and resources to build a skilled workforce to survive.

How to attract skilled laborers

Competitive pay, room for growth, and training opportunities are all positives workers look for when searching for a job. One trend we are seeing across all trade skills are on-site training facilities. Investing in a workforce pays back dividends. With more experienced workers, training opportunities and a feeling of loyalty for a company investing in the workers’ future, they are likely to stay in positions longer and add value to the company as a whole.

It’s not enough to put workers through on-site training and leave it at that. Continued learning keeps workers on the cutting edge of the industry and technology, which keeps a business on the cutting edge, ahead of the competition.

How to Keep Skilled Laborers

Workers who show enthusiasm for the work, willingness to learn and leadership skills need to be inspired to stay. Think of it this way, you provide training that makes the worker more valuable but then you don’t offer more compensation for the newly acquired skills, the worker could easily go to a competitor with their new skills and make more money. When workers are trained and invested in and recognized for that, they are much more willing to stay with a company.

The Cost of Employees

As we know, employees are expensive. In addition to compensation, the industry faces challenges providing medical benefits, driver pay, compliance fines and other worker-related expenses making it difficult to bring in new talent and competitively compensate skilled workers. These factors can make growth in the industry difficult, but many industry leaders and data collectors expect an even more significant upturn in business and industry growth in the coming years that should help offset these costs with more income.

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