Causes Behind The Construction Industry Workforce Skills Gap
The current workforce skills gap in the Australian construction industry comes about as a reoccurring trend. It ties back to the 1990s rejection of on-the-job training as a practical career focus. University education rather than trade-based training became the new mindset. As a consequence, many of the younger generation began to look down upon the virtues of skilled labor.
It was a sad loss, to Australia, America and many other industrialized nations. And it created a terrible construction workforce skills gap. So now, in 2018, the Department of Employment Australia projects a 9.3% growth in the rate of new construction industry hires. Problem is, the currently available skilled construction workforce cannot meet the explosive opportunities and demand.
And the problem is not limited in scope. From residential to commercial to industrial, contractors are struggling to find sufficient skilled workers for project builds.
Generational Gap Another Culprit In The Construction Workforce Skills Gap
We are all unique in one-way or another, yet the growing global generational gap promotes a unique challenge within the construction workforce. Even as older workers ‘age out,’ younger workers fail to take up the slack. The U.S. Census department reports an excessive engaging of older employees within the construction sector. And because many of these 55+ years old construction workers are retiring out quicker than replacements are coming in, the industry faces an ever-growing generational-induced workforce skills gap.
The concept of apprentice training seems almost vanished. According to the Australian Department of Employment, the Australian construction industry is not only losing workers to retirement, it is also taking a major hit against the accumulated knowledge, skills and understanding of associated project processes. As the older construction workforce fades away, those who could learn the skill set as new industry entrants fail to appear.
Consequences of Continued Loss Of Workforce Skills Within The Construction Industry
The effects of this vanishing of the old construction industry skill sets extend far beyond the limits of loss institutional knowledge. Such matters also affect:
- The affordability of housing, offices and even infrastructure
- Current and future trade and pay prices
- Speed of completion
- Perhaps even an inability to take on new projects
- Excessive and unnecessary delays
- Increased reliance on foreign labor
- Compromised safety and quality
- AND More.
How To End The Construction Industry Workforce Skills Gap
There is no complete ‘how-to’ for this problem. But suggestions include:
- Reducing the minimum age for high school exit into trade school training
- Promoting the advantages of an earlier, pre-college entry into the Australian workforce
- A focus on try before signing wherein students can examine their personal workforce skill sets before leaping into a formal apprenticeship program
- A national push of government project procurement policies, perhaps even defined quotas on those in the process of apprentice training
- Assurance of correct and proper training by promotion of licensing and registration expectations by trade unionists
If the industry is to continue in this massive growth cycle, the issue of the workforce skills gap in construction must be resolved. This means that new rules will likely come into play. There will be rules that require greater attention to detail, compliance and performance tracking, rules that monitor progress and rules that pertain to individual types of operations.
Pen-to-paper solutions will not keep up with the changes. Nor will spreadsheet-based tracking systems. Contractors must adopt new technologies to manage their operations.