Photo of employee working at a desk juxtaposed with a construction worker holding a tablet in the field with a "Labor and Workforce" label

The global labor shortage within the construction industry has been continuing in force as 2022 comes to a close, and ongoing advancements in technology are calling for an entirely new group of skilled workers to step into the industry. Some companies are desperately trying to fill openings and retain workers within these positions.

Last month, Procore’s Groundbreak Conference invited international construction professionals to speak on the state of the world’s continuing labor shortage. Experts Christina Riley, Jas Saraw, Dave Shumyla, and Lahiru Silva took a deep dive into the future labor outlook and possible solutions to this crisis.

“There’s a mismatch in terms of the right people and the right opportunities.”

Lahiru Silva, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Construction businesses across the world are having trouble hiring & retaining workers

Lahiru Silva, an instructor at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, offered new insight into what might be some of the main causes of the global shortage.

“When you look at the labor shortage in general, it happens for two reasons. One is, we don’t have enough workers. The other is, there’s a mismatch in terms of the right people and the right opportunities. Currently, when you look at Canada in the next five years, we may not have enough students of the younger generation coming into construction,” he says.

Silva’s organization makes efforts to recruit and inspire young students, showing them that the construction industry is a huge field that supports employees of multiple trades. The goal is to host open houses and training sessions where students can learn about the range of opportunities within the construction field and how there’s room for everyone.

“Specifically, what we try to do is go to high schools and talk to students to understand how they would like to come into construction. We train the tradesmen all the way up to construction managers,” Silva says.

Christina Riley, Senior Planner for Quinn London, relates this goal to current events within the United Kingdom’s construction industry. She notes that the UK is “struggling to find good design managers, architects, site managers, and tradespeople,” and that projects are being affected

The future of construction careers means adapting to the interests of a new generation

Riley believes the way over the “massive hill to climb” is the introduction of inclusivity programs. As construction workers are retiring and the next generation is expected to step up, measures that offer mental health programs and other supportive resources are massive selling points.

Riley also mentions the stereotypes associated with the traditional construction career, and how she wants to show potential workers that it doesn’t have to be a life of long hours in a cold and dirty environment. The amount of tech-focused careers in construction that encourage creativity is constantly rising

Also, the rise of technology in the construction market is changing opportunities for potential employees, according to Dave Shumyla, Project Manager for Customer Service & Quality at Adera Development Corporation. Drones, 3D modeling, and more are piquing the interest of the younger generation. 

This could be an exciting thing for companies finding it hard to hire employees who don’t want to get their hands dirty working on a jobsite. Shumyla adds that it’s important to establish the industry as what it has become in recent years: a much more complex and broad trade.

What does this analysis mean for contractors?

The bottom line, according to the experts on the Groundbreak Conference’s labor shortage panel, is that seasoned workers are retiring, and the new generation of workers is expected to step up.

Prioritizing efficiency and productivity could be a huge help for contractors dealing with this problem. Lahiru Silva explains how contractors might find themselves needing to manage their workers more efficiently.

“If we can stop the idle time spent looking for materials and things like that through technologies, we can make sure that we can get more done with the limited crew we have,” he says. “We can use better project management as well as better technologies.” Not only could smaller crews complete work faster, but their jobs may also appear more attractive to those not looking for back-breaking labor.