The Construction Industry has a Bad Rap – Can We Change it?

“It’s dirty and low-paying.”
“It’s unsafe and there aren’t any benefits.”
“It’s unstable.”

These are just a few of the words and phrases used to describe the construction industry, and for good reason. For far too many years those entering the profession were treated as permanent entry-level workers in unsafe environments with no ability to make a decent living or move up the ladder.

Who is to blame for the construction industry’s negative perception?

While it is unfortunate that so many companies must suffer the consequences of a few bad apples, it is up to us collectively to be a positive force in addressing the things that contribute to negative stereotypes about the industry and push for solutions to increase employee retention and recruitment efforts.

The reality is, skilled-trades and construction have an image problem – one that we created in several layers. The complaints coming in from the field speak to long hours, instability in the availability of work, issues with safety, impossible deadlines, and poor prospects for advancement.

In all this negative sentiment there is truth and misconception locked in a chicken and an egg debate.

Worker safety has been improving over the years, and every workplace knows that they must follow precautions and guidelines to maintain worker safety. However, the industry also has a responsibility to ensure workers and supervisors are adequately trained, and that work is not handed off to untrained workers, or excessive overtime is demanded in the interest of meeting impossible deadlines.

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Per a study by NAHB, the perception of poor working conditions is part of the reason that only three percent of young people are interested in careers in construction trades. However, with a looming shortage of workers in our industry, we need to turn the tide – it’s a time to step up and recognize what employees are looking for in their careers.

An excellent place to start is with a workforce development plan that includes creating benefits that make sense, recruiting new workers, and offering continual training to the existing workforce.

Asking yourself why people leave the construction industry will help you identify benefits that are attractive to the workforce.

For some workers there is not enough work.
If your company can’t create a portfolio of projects that can keep them invested year-round, other options may be a lower but year-round salary (like school teachers) or partnering with another company that operates in seasons yours does not.

  • No upward mobility – workers realize they can use their skills in the private market and may leave to pursue self-employment. A way to retain these workers is to provide them opportunity for advancement through promotions, or special projects.
  • On-going training is a must for new employees that are starting with no experience. It can take years of experience to learn a trade and even then; workers must stay up to date with new regulations and technologies.
  • Traditional benefits like insurance, 401k, paid time off and pension are still among the most desired benefits that employees seek.

While negative perceptions may be keeping many people from entering the construction trades, there is also a lack of understanding about trades because they are not well highlighted to students in secondary education as compared to traditional four-year colleges. Many people don’t know that it is relatively easy to enter a trade and begin your career with little experience.

People don’t understand what they don’t know.

While bringing about better offerings and incentives is critical, if your local leaders, schools, and parents don’t know about careers available in the construction trades they will continue to have negative perceptions.

It’s a hard pill to swallow that even in the face of so much technological innovation happening around us we are facing a critical shortage in the workforce. It is crucial to keep in mind that those working in the construction trades are serving a valuable role; a role creating the things we live in, work in, and use for travel. These are real tangible assets that make society function and it is time to recognize the importance of these professions.

If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same results.
Are you ready for a change? If so, check out the companies are shaping the future of our industry.  

Josh Munns
Joshua Munns grew up in the construction industry differently than most, his Mom, Mary Davis, started a window company as a single mom when he was just 4 years old in 1983. Having a mom who was starting a business in the construction industry at only 23 years old made for some very interesting days. Fast forward 24 years to 2007 I took over the family business just in time for the Recession which hit my business extremely hard. I spent the next 11 years rebuilding the business, rebuilding my workforce and completely reshaping the company. In 2018 I sold the business to focus my energy on my passion, building careers in construction. In 2018 I founded Ground Up Construct to help business owners and employees build careers together. The career does not exist with the employer and the employer does not exist without the career. When employees and employers work together the end result is amazing. By building a strong company culture, offering great benefits and career paths for my employees I was able to build the business back stronger than ever. I did it and I want to help other owners take that step to take their business to the next level. It is an amazing feeling and a great privilege to be able to provide people with great careers.

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