The construction industry continues to suffer from a protracted labor shortage that’s increasing costs, delays and risk as older workers retire without enough younger workers replacing them. In fact, the industry as a whole had a staggering 431,000 unfilled job openings, according to the most recent data from the Association of Building Contractors.
But savvy companies are using technology such as reality capture to recruit a new generation of workers — and beat the labor shortage. In fact, the industry has seen a high percentage of computer and science majors applying for construction jobs. For instance, construction employers increased outreach to students on Handshake, a career-finding platform focused on college students, by 46% over the past year, according to a report from the company. Employers also increased internship postings.
Tech such as a reality capture is a major draw. “Reality capture is a way to entice younger minds, especially those that have grown up in the gaming industry. The ability to draw that younger generation into the skilled trades through technology can help close some of that labor gap,” said Kipp Ivey, Senior Business Development Manager at FARO Technologies.
Here are three key ways employers can use technology such as reality capture to help close the labor gap:
1. Empower existing employees to acquire new skills and have a clear career path
All workers want to know that there’s a definite career path to advancement and lacking one is a key reason workers quit. In fact, 29% of workers named lack of growth opportunities as their reason for wanting to quit and 80% of workers do not think their current employer offers growth opportunities, according to a recent Monster poll. Encouraging workers to acquire skills around tech such as reality capture gives employers a clear way to provide a path for growth while also improving employee engagement and productivity. “We’re engaging with the unions at the grassroots level to get reality capture into the core curriculum. So that when these apprentices come out of the programs, they already know there’s another potential career path as they matriculate up through the ranks,” Ivey said. “Every kid likes to be on that cutting edge.”
2. Attract new talent interested in exploring industry technology — especially younger workers
The ongoing labor shortage is due in large part to not enough new employees replacing the workers who are quickly aging out. Why? Ivey said that the industry hasn’t done enough to attract this new generation of digitally savvy workers, who grew up on screens and probably wasn’t encouraged to see the trades as a career. Showing new recruits how the industry is using tech such as reality capture changes that dynamic. “The current labor force is just not looking to construction as a career path,” Ivey said.
“The kind of technology that many firms are now putting into their digital toolkits creates an avenue of engagement with the next generation that hasn’t existed before. That engagement and marriage of technology and construction is probably one of the greatest opportunities we have to close the labor gap — and make people understand there’s more to construction today than swinging a hammer.”
3. Change the image of construction from mud and boots to tech and innovation
The larger recruitment hurdle that all construction companies face today is the false notion that it’s an industry of poorly paid, unskilled labor that the tech world forgot. Showing workers and the wider world the tech advancements companies are now using — from reality tech to AI to XR to robotics — is a way to not only recruit a new generation but also change the image of construction for future generations. “The way we attack that labor gap right now is to start using technology as a tool to bring those individuals into the skilled trade,” Ivey said. “When you think about reality capture and you think about the ability to take a real-world environment, digitize it, take that digital information and use it as a verification process for quality control and design and then use that digital asset to compare it to the real world — that kind of technology, if you haven’t seen it personally, is mind-boggling. If people were to see what goes on in an average construction site today, they would have a whole new respect for the men and women that do it every day.”