Unemployment rates in the United States are at an all-time high. Yet, in the middle of this ongoing pandemic, civil construction companies are facing a unique problem: they can't find enough talent. Recent data from The Civil Quarterly Vol. 1 shows that contractors in the construction sector may be facing supply chain issues and backing problems, but their most significant challenge remains the same as previous quarters. 60% of civil construction companies are having a "high level of difficulty" finding skilled workers. Furthermore, 53% expect the cost of skilled workers to increase in the next 12 months.
What does this mean for the civil construction industry as a whole? And will the talent shortage continue to loom on the horizon despite an unemployment boom?
Understanding the Current Talent Situation in Civil Construction
Construction is an interesting position in the market. Civil construction is still steadily moving along in many cities, especially off-site construction projects. Yet, the construction industry as a whole is hurting. Recently, construction companies cut over 7,000 jobs due to COVID-19 economic pressure. But civil engineering seems somewhat immune to the pressures hitting the rest of the industry.
To be clear, civil construction is still hurting. Just over half of survey respondents think that there will be ample jobs over the next 12 months. But that's better than many industries, and while cutbacks are happening, the overall civil construction workforce has been largely retained. Surprisingly, around 30% of respondents believe that their profit margins will increase this year.
But over 40% believe that their bottom lines are going to be impacted by something other than the pandemic and are worried about rising talent costs. In 2007, construction employment hit an all-time high. By 2015, the number of employed was half of that peak despite greater market demand. After the 2008 recession, fewer people returned to construction. And we may seem the same issue face the industry again.
Civil construction has two primary talent issues.
- There is a lack of skilled construction workers on the market.
- Rising technology needs require skilled talent and resources, which are being lured to tech companies.
Both of these issues are compounded by the pandemic. Unemployment didn't produce any new skilled construction workers, and existing talent is looking at an even more open job marketplace. Industries hit hardest by the pandemic are picking up pace again, leading to record employment gains to offset some of the unemployment damages.
And many of those jobs are high-paying, air-conditioned, and hungry for talent.
Fix Talent First
"Have you ever gone to Cape Canaveral to watch a rocket take off? If so, you'd know the way the rocket shakes as it's getting ready to blast off. That's how construction is right now, just waiting to take off again." — Chuck Goodrich, CEO at Gaylor Electric
Civil construction companies need to embrace the talent shortage. It's here to stay. And fixing your talent situation is far more dire than focusing on the short-term economic impact of COVID-19. Outside of severe liquidity issues, most civil contractors should be headhunting best-in-class talent to prepare them for the post-crisis boom. Contract jobs will return. In fact, they're already returning in record numbers. And, for the most part, the existing contracts never fully stopped, they just got delayed or adjusted.
Resource Erectors can help. Our best-of-breed talent network can help pair you with top-level civil construction talent to help you brave the crisis ecosystem and leverage the post-crisis boom to grow faster, smarter, and with more agility than your competitors. There are plenty of issues to think about during this hectic time. But talent should be front-of-mind. Without the workers, the overall condition of the construction economy doesn't matter. You need talent to execute amazing projects. Contact us to learn more.