Nick Guidry, M.B.A., M.Ed., SHRM-SCP
C3 Relationship Manager
Almost 20 years ago, the Pew Research Center coined the term “silver tsunami” to describe the average worker age increase and the projected impacts of mass retirements. These projected labor losses not only have an impact on contractor capability but also on industry sustainability.
Experienced craft professionals rapidly exiting the industry, coupled with a shrinking emerging workforce, has created a void where institutional knowledge is lost. In this environment, contractors’ operations and production efforts cannot build momentum, which limits the safety, skills development, and sustainability of the entire industry.
K-12, postsecondary, nonprofits, government, and contractors must come together to address this great need. However, the work of creating the next shift in the construction workforce and shepherding industry knowledge begins in K-12 and is spearheaded by CTE Directors.
This article will address effective methods to communicate industry opportunities and the benefits of being a construction worker to students and their parents.
The Realities of Opportunity in the Construction Industry
The most important strategic decision a CTE Director must make is how CTE programs can align with high-wage, in-demand, and high-skill occupations. To effectively understand relaying the benefits of construction work to students requires an understanding of the wage, demand, and skill development opportunities in construction.
Understanding the economic and workforce outlook for the industry creates an environment for CTE Directors and teachers to have candid discussions with vocational-track students and their parents about the fantastic opportunities in high-skilled construction work.
3 Keys to Conversations about the Benefits of Being a Construction Worker
To ensure that conversations about construction careers are fruitful, C3 promotes dialogue that focuses on both economic opportunity in the trades and the potential for professional growth.
1. Talk About Income
According to the NCCER’s 2022 Construction Craft Salary Survey, of the 41 construction positions surveyed, average annual salaries ranged from $49,920 to $98,965. These are precursory earnings and are estimated to grow by 3.2% based on economic indicators.
However, when coupled with an effective CTE strategy, an environment is created in which graduates with a technical license or certifications outpace bachelor’s degree holders. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE):
It is critical that both the industry and CTE program staff speak to students and parents about the reality of earnings in the industry compared with other industries. Furthermore, this conversation should involve a candid discussion about the impact of the 7.1 trillion-dollar student debt load on the emerging workforce's financial life.
2. Talk About the Sustainability of the Industry
The sustainability of the construction workforce has been a hot topic for both economic analysts and the companies that comprise the industry. The terms “Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” have fueled clickbait over the past four years. However, C3 and our mission-aligned general and specialty contractors have championed transformation in the industry.
The sustainability of the construction workforce is founded in the following areas:
3. Talk about Helping the Community
One thing that my C3 colleagues and I hear repetitively from craft professionals is the pride in the projects that they work on in the Houston market. These workers tell stories of driving around their communities with their children and being able to point out the vehicle’s window and declare, “I was a part of the building of that.”
These workers have had a lasting impact on the very face of their communities. This is a long-lasting legacy. Students and parents should be assisted in understanding that not only can a construction career lead to a tangible legacy related to builds, but also for communities to create economic empowerment, greater access to opportunity, and entry into entrepreneurship.
Learn More About Leveraging Industry Partners
The best CTE Directors are leveraging industry partners to help them spread the word through knowledge and hands-on demonstrations or in-class presentations.
C3 can assist CTE Directors with introductions to industry partners through our C3 Educational Advisory Board and Industry Outreach events.
To learn more, sign up for the C3 News Brief, follow us on LinkedIn, or leverage the Contact Us form on our website. We would love to share more insights directly with you about the benefits of being a construction worker to assist students in your school district.
Nick Guidry, M.B.A., M.Ed., SHRM-SCP
C3 Relationship Manager
According to the 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey published by the “Big Four” professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “the Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in new business models and new ways of working that require critical new technical, digital, and soft skills. Those skills, however, are in very short supply.”
The construction industry is not excluded from this rapid shift in how we work, which is why implementing an upskilling program is critical for companies in the industry.
Why is Upskilling Important?
Hewlett-Packard released a report in 2022 that provided an analysis of skill development across many different industries, including construction. The report cites that “advances in technology have made upskilling necessary [across] the entire AEC industry.”
Upskilling includes all functional areas of organizations. Specifically, the lack of critical skills held by craft professionals could prove to impede business goals and increase human capital costs in the commercial construction industry for decades to come.
The dual impacts of the “greying of the workforce” and the global labor shortage require decisive action to be taken today. If not, the industry will face the compounding effects of ignoring the problem and the expense of placing bandages on symptoms.
These skills gaps, if unaddressed, will directly hurt the industry in the following ways:
The key is understanding how to implement a program to prevent these issues from negatively impacting the industry. It starts with gaining clarity on exactly what upskilling is.
What is Upskilling?The Britain-based learning and development organization, Growth Engineering, defines upskilling as “a focus on the improvement of skill sets of your existing workforce by training for additional skills or strengthening previous knowledge.”
The practice of upskilling is founded on leaders being “forward-leaning” and forecasting solutions that meet the demands of the rapid pace of business, economic, or technological transformation, as well as innovation.
Fundamentally, it must be understood that skills training is not a short-term solution or a quick fix to maintain company growth. Upskilling, and, in general, skills training, is an investment in the long-term performance and retention of the workforce.
Both employee engagement and overall retention rates increase when employees are offered clear career development pathways designed to improve their knowledge, skills, abilities, and competency.
- Patrice Low of the Cengage Group asserts, “Employees want to understand future career opportunities and what skills, competencies, and capabilities they need to get there.”
- Susan Vroman and Tiffany Danko state the following in an article entitled “How to Build a Successful Upskilling Program,” published in the Harvard Business Review:
The questions for company operational and HR leaders become …
Let’s answer these questions.
Identifying and Implementing an Upskilling Program for Your Workforce
The first step in the critical alignment of the need for skills development with business goals is identifying those skills that will be needed to answer the challenges the company will face in the next one to three years.
Cross-functionally, the leaders of the organization can segment the skills gap analysis into the following areas:
Once the critical skills identification process is completed, the competent organization moves toward assessing employee competencies. The competency mapping process provides a performance baseline for the workforce and creates a mechanism for assessing progress. How does this work? Take a look at this C3 blog for a review of the competency mapping process.
The final step is the development of upskilling goals. In general, this process involves examining the baselines that the company developed during the competency mapping process and determining the future skills that the market is demanding to fill these skills gaps.
Here the organization's leaders can create a list of the most in-demand skills for each career role. There will not be 20 or 30 key skills, nor will the leader have to address every competency, but there will be 3 to 5 key skills that training can be mapped to enhance employee skills.
This analysis can be even more effective using employee surveys or sensing sessions that provide a deeper understanding of the technical skills that employees carry out daily and the specific challenges inherent in their work. These sessions increase employee involvement and ownership of the upskilling process.
There are many modalities for skill development that can be of value. However, the most common ones are as follows:
The final step in implementing upskilling is to continuously examine the success of the initiative. The most illuminating metrics for training programs are if the employees retain the new skills and can competently translate the training into action on the job.
The company must be able to map the development of key skills and track progress, preferably through a skills evaluation or annual appraisal program. Tracking skill development for each employee allows the organization to track people metrics at a granule level. These other metrics could include:
Now, you are positioned to track the growth of each employee, team, and role. This effort will support your retention efforts in building a competent, capable, and motivated workforce.
The Impact of Upskilling on Employee Retention
Upskilling creates a clear pathway to building best-in-class employers of choice. World-class learning organizations fill critical knowledge gaps, help employees be more capable, and, most importantly in today’s economy, increase employee retention.
According to 360Learning, a successful Learning Management System vendor, “successful upskilling programs prove that employees don’t need to job-hop between companies to advance their careers or change their career path.”
When companies focus on competency mapping and future-based skills development, the leaders have created an effective retention campaign focused on the following:
Learn More About the Value of Upskilling
As you can see, upskilling is critical for the future success of the construction industry. We encourage stakeholders to develop and implement an upskilling program as part of a larger commitment to positively impacting the future of the industry by investing in craft workers.
To learn more about other key topics, sign up for the C3 News Brief and follow us on LinkedIn. Get access to the latest tips and tricks to creating a safer, better-skilled, and more sustainable craft workforce.
Angela Robbins Taylor
Safety Management Systems (SMS) was not a thing in the past. But if you look back over the last four decades in the construction industry, a lot has changed.
In the 1970s, it was simpler and probably cheaper just to pay a fine than support the safety of the workforce through training, equipment, and process improvement. Now, safety is of utmost importance.
Find out why focusing on construction safety management can result in positive outcomes for your projects.
Construction Safety Management: Less Risk; More Reward
Construction safety has undergone a systemic overhaul in the last few decades to create a culture that values the employee over the profit. This culture creates a more enticing career opportunity for those coming into the industry.
Safety culture generates more for companies than just goodwill with employees. Safer jobs keep insurance premiums down, create better customer satisfaction, and create a better jobsite for all trades. The key to creating a strong safety culture is to manage risk and empower employees.
Managing risk boils down to two key areas:
1. General Safety Awareness
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers an entire catalog of safety courses. If you are not a professional in the safety world, it can be daunting to sort through all the options. Start by thinking about the general awareness needed by all employees, especially those in the field, and follow up with items that are more specific to your trade.
At the minimum, general safety awareness can be garnered from the completion of a course like OSHA 10. Oftentimes, this course is seen as the only general awareness course necessary for entry-level employees.
However, an introduction to a safety mindset that is unique and specific to your organization complements the 10-hour general course with the specifics you find to be most important. As craft workers progress through their careers, increasing their knowledge of general issues in safety and how to lead safety programs is critical.
Safety leadership courses and safety for supervisors can be sourced through OSHA or community colleges, union halls, or community-based training organizations. However, once you source the information, it is critical that all employees speak the same safety language and understand how to spot hazards and manage risk for themselves and their teams.
Each trade will need specific courses that apply to their work in order to create a safe working environment for the craft workforce. Staying engaged in safety education should be a primary method for keeping safety awareness at the forefront of all construction workforce.
Additionally, as each job is being prepped and the workforce assigned, it is necessary to check the credentials and certifications that are necessary to complete the job. Keeping on top of safety training and ensuring that each time a competent person is provided for the jobsite is critical. A little extra specialized safety training reduces risk significantly for the entire project.
2. Hazard Analysis and Mitigation
Beyond training, it is critical that all employees are able to identify potential hazards and plan to reduce risk in their work through mitigation or elimination of the hazard.
As work begins each day, it is important that the focus starts with safety. For this reason, as safety management systems have been designed and implemented, job hazard analysis (JHA) or job safety analysis (JSA) have become best practice.
Start each shift with a review of the planned work, the potential hazards, and the correct options for reducing risk. Then, discuss the plan with the entire team. This effort will create a sense of being valued by each other and the company.
Trade partners that do not utilize the JHA/JSA process are missing a critical step that creates a safety culture inside their company. Having everyone on the same page before work begins sends people home safely and willing to return to work the next day.
Safety is personal, and it is corporate. Safe job sites are the responsibility of everyone present. However, there is a hierarchy in the workforce that sometimes keeps individuals from feeling empowered to stop work when they see issues for fear of being wrong or retaliation or even lost time in production.
When we fail to give employees the power to stop work (Stop Work Authority or SWA), we communicate that they are not valuable and that their expertise and observations are devalued. Giving employees the right and encouraging them to own the safety of their jobs is a powerful tool for creating engaged and loyal employees.
Empowering employees also trickles out in the community. The general population will see safe workers performing jobs in the public eye, increasing the reputation of construction work as respectable work performed by highly skilled workers.
Build Your Safety Programs With C3
From our inception, Construction Career Collaborative (C3) has seen that safety is key to raising the playing field for our workforce. Creating a pipeline of employees for the craft trades requires that the employers have safety and skills training at the forefront of all they do.
We have developed a set of safety modules that can be used on jobsites to refresh the safety mindset on general safety awareness. Additionally, our safety committee has created a basic JHA for use by anyone who doesn’t have their own format.
Safety is critical to job performance. You can create a safe culture in your company that your employees want and deserve.
Want to help us plan the next set of safety support services to be offered by C3? Find out how to join our safety committee to help us lead the way in supporting construction safety management.
Angela Robbins Taylor
Every project should be a quality project.
Every team should be a quality team.
And every day should demonstrate commitment to excellence in quality management.
Lean Six Sigma tells us that quality is a key predictor of customer satisfaction and that managing the quality of our product reduces rework and delivers a better result for owners and contractors alike.
Let’s dig deeper into how we can make a quality improvement in construction projects.
Designing a Quality Management Process
Each trade partner has a role to play in the final project delivery. Therefore, they must each have a way of measuring and managing the output of their teams for quality standards. Contracting companies should follow two key steps when developing a quality management system.
Prepare for Quality Assurance
Quality touches many aspects of construction processes, including:
There are always some things that are beyond the contractor’s control, such as a product defect. However, it is possible to create higher-quality deliverables with planning.
When designing a quality assurance program, it should be linked to the company’s long-term strategy and focus on the most critical elements that impact the deliverable the customer receives. When preparing for quality assurance, companies should include the following:
1. Identifying Root Causes for Current Quality Issues
Before implementing any new program, assessing your current state of work is crucial. Not only do you have to consider what is an acceptable outcome, but you have to think about how it can effectively alter your work.
If specific errors are recurrent in your work, digging into the root cause will provide insight into how to prevent them through process, product, and training changes.
2. Defining Quality Standards
Once the issues have been identified and a cause for current quality errors is determined, it is time to define acceptable quality standards for the contractor.
Quality standards could include:
A company could approach this definition as a collaborative action with the field and office working together to determine what can be completed in a project environment. Including your field experts in this definition will also lay the groundwork for quicker adoption of the program when it rolls out to the company because they had a voice in defining what would be expected.
3. Delivering Training
Now that a contractor has identified the recurrent errors and has defined the quality measurements going forward, it is essential to train employees who the quality management process will impact. Again, based on what was uncovered in the root cause analysis, this may include various training programs.
At a minimum, it should include the following:
Program Rollout Training
Training must be a key component before the start date when a company institutes any new program, from quality to vacation to benefits. Ensuring that all employees, both in the field and office, are comfortable with their roles and how the new program impacts them is critical to keeping employees engaged and ready to assist the company in achieving its goals.
Identify all the different job roles affected and the level of training or awareness they might need to support the program. Sometimes the training may be an email or notification that a new program is happening. Other times, it should be a more in-depth overview of how the program will impact a specific set of processes for doing work.
If you ask your employees to deliver a better product to your customer, you must enable them to build the skills necessary.
Developing and delivering skills training to ensure a high-quality workforce starts with assessing their current and needed skill levels and identifying how to close the gap between the two levels. Some examples include:
However you address the skills training ensures that safety is addressed as well.
Implement a quality management process
All the pieces you have created must then be rolled into a process allowing the company to manage and measure the effective change in quality output.
The implementation should include a process that is:
Quality Improvement in Construction Projects: Deliver with Intention
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. – John Ruskin.
As with most things that make a difference to a company’s bottom line, your intention drives change. Therefore, creating a simple and easily replicated program throughout different offices and geographies or with other departments is critical.
Do you need help understanding how to design for replicability and leverage our simple process for designing training programs that define good and evaluate performance? Contact us today to get access to your free design tools and discuss how we can further your quality improvement in construction projects and workforce.
C3 Relationship Manager
In the competitive construction industry, it has become a common practice for specialty contractors that desire to avoid employee and payroll-related overhead to utilize “1099 workers” to reduce financial obligations and deliver the lowest bids to win work. However, often this strategy leads to the misclassification of the workers that drive company operations and production.
Mark Erlich, a Harvard Fellow, writes that the misclassification of workers and the related ramifications “add to the inherently insecure nature of the trades.” This insecurity is a barrier to entry for talent in the trades. Add to that the aging workforce leaving the industry like a silver tsunami and the estimated 350,000 new workers the industry requires in 2024 leaves the construction craft workforce unsustainable.
The construction industry must embrace change to ensure operational excellence, productivity, and a sustainable workforce.
Pivoting to a Sustainable Workforce?
The misclassification of workers realistically may help companies to save costs. However, this practice can be the omen of financial, ethical, and legal ruin.
The federal tax authority levies significant penalties for misclassification, including:
The costliest penalty may not be financial or legal; however, it has the most significant and long-lasting impact. The misclassification of workers can devastate the reputation of construction companies and jeopardize their ability to secure future business deals. Credible project owners view companies with a misclassified workforce as:
Shifting for Forward Momentum
Construction companies that employ the W2 sustainable workforce can avoid these consequences by shifting their talent management and experiencing greater project control, increased employee loyalty, and the impact of employees who support the mission.
The schedule, work that is performed, and the operational process are all controlled by the company. If we want things to be done with a standard of excellence, employees give us that control.
Employees are more loyal when there is a sense of financial security and a long-term investment from the employer that includes both consistent work and training for increased responsibility.
Employees possess the tribal knowledge that makes a company unique. Leveraging their support to pass down crucial skills to new employees and allowing them to showcase how they can deliver upon a multitude of responsibilities supports the employee and company equally.
EMERGE as a Quality Contractor!C3 is dedicated to aiding companies that may be navigating the operational pivot to building a more sustainable workforce. Helping small contractors, previous C3 Project Participants, and the Greater Houston-area M/WBE trade partners is our mission.
C3 has launched a new program called EMERGE.
This program welcomes companies to partner with the C3 team, utilize our team members, and tap into our career pathways consulting capabilities and training courses to add value to EMERGE participating companies.
This process makes it possible to pivot from “1099 Workers” to a sustainable workforce. We’ll help Project Participants smoothly transition to becoming Accredited Employers. Companies in the EMERGE program can expect a seamless process:
Scheduling an enrollment call is the first step to optimizing the performance of your workforce and company. Take the first step today to help create a sustainable future for everyone.
Construction Industry Institute (CII)
Construction Users Roundtable (CURT)
National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)