Many are “getting creative” by offering tuition assistance, extended benefits, and partnering with trade schools.

“We are partnering with groups such as the National Center for Construction Eduction and Research to help develop curriculum for our skilled trades employees,” said Chris Cole. Cole is a Group Manager within JE Dunn who specializes in recruiting and developing the company’s skilled labor force.

“This allows us to access the pipeline of the best trained individuals, continuing education for our existing employees, and ensures the certifications and licenses they issue are covering the skills we need our employees to know,” said Cole.

Cross-Training and Upskilling

Cole also added that JE Dunn is making extra effort to retain the existing labor force by cross-training and upskilling employees who are hard workers but may be interested in expanding their skillsets into different trades or areas of expertise. This sentiment was echoed by Dane Brumagin, a Talent Acquisition Director within JE Dunn.

“We are looking internally for employees who may have transferable skills to a harder-to-fill position. For example, we may move someone who is in a non-construction supervision role over to a Workforce Manager role, a position typically filled by a Superintendent. The primary competencies needed to be a Workforce Manager are strong communication and organizational skills. A move like this leaves an experienced Superintendent in the field and allows more growth opportunity for all employees involved,” Brumagin said.

As we covered in our Labor Today overview, this type of reskilling may be necessary in several sectors due to shifts created by the pandemic.

The Importance of Today

Both Brumagin and Cole reinforced the need to be proactive rather than reactive today and into the future. Recruiting from other industries, mentoring through schools and unions, and developing relationships with college and trade school instructors were also mentioned as strategies JE Dunn is employing today in anticipation of a continued labor shortage in the future.

Another strategic differentiator we are using today which is already returning dividends is Casey Cantone, a Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist who is fully dedicated to recruiting for our skilled trade workforce. Recognizing the pinch in that particular labor segment, we see this role as crucial to our future labor force.

We also recently added a role within our Community Impact Department for an Education Manager. Chera Hishaw fills that role and recently launched “Building the Future”, a K-12 workforce readiness initiative centered on construction careers. Through partnerships with local schools and educational nonprofits, students will experience hands-on engagement and build awareness of the many opportunities in the construction industry.

Prefabrication: Doing More With Less

No discussion about labor in the future is complete without mentioning prefabrication. Stacy Scopano is JE Dunn’s National Prefabrication & Manufacturing Director. “Industry advances in shifting labor demands offsite during prefabrication help to lessen the quantity of labor hours needed onsite. This directly impacts hiring dynamics by both reducing the quantity of employees needed and changes the role requirements per employee which broadens the potential candidate pool,” said Scopano.

Environmental Improvements

The impacts on labor can be understood when you consider the process changes enabled by prefabrication. Worker efficiency gains results from the predictability of what is being produced, as well as, how.

“Ergonomics, standardization, and even automation can all combine to drive outcomes that affect quantity and type of worker needed to produce the same scope of work on site. Employment for a facility that is climate controlled, inherently safer, and consistently close to home can also provide an added quality of stability to construction roles that might otherwise seem less attractive, when compared to the shorter term variability moving project-to-project, site-to-site,” said Scopano. Ultimately, all of these factors combine to positively impact the breadth of labor that can be recruited for production, which can directly impact the current constraints to construction capacity and supply.

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