Our nation is slowly but surely overcoming the economic slump of the Great Recession, which is good news for the construction industry. The financial crisis has impacted our industry, and for many, the last several years have been tough.
Now we face an important question: How can we best position the construction sector for long-term growth? The answer lies within recruiting the next generation of talent. Faced with the challenges of the economic downturn, many construction professionals left the ranks. The market conditions also forced some of the best and brightest to find careers in other areas. As a result, we have a shortage of skilled workers, which is expected to increase as the U.S. baby boomer generation hits retirement age.
The struggling economy forced many private companies to delay construction they needed to improve productivity and sustainability levels. With the impending economic upswing, new projects are coming. I am optimistic that the market is primed to increase capacity and efficiency, leading our industry to return to prerecession levels.
To address pent-up demand, we need the right people to do the job. These are students in universities and technical schools. These are people who are currently unemployed. These are men and women who are unsatisfied with their current positions and are looking to change careers. It is time to pump new blood into this industry.
Quality is integral to our industry’s growth. To return confidence in our industry and drive repeat business, we must provide superior building and construction services to all of our customers, both privately and publicly funded. The best way to achieve quality is to recruit excellent talent and supply them with continuous, high-caliber training. Training programs should nourish the talents of construction professionals and focus on the latest innovations and technologies. The best training programs will include marketing support to teach professionals how to independently drive sales and act as brand advocates.
We also must look for workers who advance sustainability. With the sharp increase in construction projects, we will witness high levels of green market growth. When hiring new employees, construction companies should seek out professionals who understand the importance of adapting to evolving energy codes. Soon, we will be challenged to meet the standards of LEED® v4, ASHRAE® 90.1 and the IECC, and our workforce will need to understand how to do so efficiently and effectively.
Harnessing the brainpower of future construction professionals will enable us to create new innovations and technologies, while also meeting the demand for new construction projects. We can best guarantee continued growth in 2013 and beyond by building a new generation of construction workers.
Tom Gilligan is president of Butler Manufacturing