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The flourishing U.S. economy has brought new jobs to virtually every sector, and the construction industry is no exception. But despite the abundance of job openings, the widening skills gap has made hiring qualified talent more challenging than ever, especially for trade occupations. In fact, a whopping 80 percent of construction firms report difficulty finding skilled workers for hourly craft positions. Now that 2019 is well underway, what’s next for the construction job market and how can industry professionals simplify their search for skilled labor?

A Strong Start to 2019

The good news is that the high demand for construction jobs signals a healthy market filled with opportunities, according to iHireConstruction’s January 2019 Construction Industry Report. A deep dive into the recruiting technology provider’s job and job seeker databases showed that the number of construction jobs nearly doubled year over year, jumping from approximately 86,600 jobs in January 2018 to 167,400 in January 2019. Among those openings, the following trends emerged among employers.

  • The most popular construction job titles sought in the first month of the year included: roofers (22,800 openings), electricians (20,000), plumbers/pipefitters (13,000), project/construction managers (11,900) and millwrights/mechanics/maintenance workers (11,200).
  • The top five skills listed on construction job ads included management, scheduling, electrical, training and development, and engineering. This shows a demand for both trade and managerial skills.
  • The average job advertisement age (length of time posted) declined from 33 days in December 2018 to 25 days in January 2019. This suggests that employers in the construction industry are hiring faster, which is a good sign they are making progress in tackling their talent shortage woes.
The Construction Candidate Pool

Analyzing construction job seeker statistics, more positive news arose for employers. Most notably, the pool of candidates is growing, as 1.1 million job seekers resided in the iHireConstruction database in January 2019 versus 876,100 in January 2018. In addition, there was some overlap in the job titles sought by employers and job seekers.

  • More than 106,800 job seekers sought a project/construction manager position, followed by foreman/supervisor (91,500), welder/fabricator (62,500), electrician (58,600), carpenter (56,800) and superintendent (55,700). Other popular titles included laborer, millwright/mechanic/maintenance, heavy equipment operator and plumber.
  • The top five skills listed on construction job seeker resumes included shop drawings, blueprints, hand tools, installation and construction management. However, these skills do not align with those desired by employers, underscoring the skills gap.
  • Only 33 percent of candidates were classified as “active job seekers.” This means that construction firms will have to make a greater effort to win over passive job seekers—those who are already employed but are open to new opportunities.
Closing the Gap

Despite the 7:1 ratio of candidates to construction jobs illustrated in iHireConstruction’s report, the skills gap isn’t going to close overnight. Moreover, employers are not going to fill their open positions with qualified candidates without changing their hiring status quo. To find skilled talent, construction professionals should consider the following advice:

Get Involved With Workforce Development
Collaborate with high schools, trade schools, associations, recruiters and other organizations to educate future workers about construction career paths. Get started by hosting webinars, speaking at local schools, creating an online resource library or offering discounted courses.

Appeal to the Job Seeker
Today’s candidate-driven marketplace requires employers to take a cue from marketing and engage with job seekers just as one would a potential customer. Connect with prospective candidates throughout the recruiting process—maintain open lines of communication, share useful information and highlight company culture, especially in job ads.

Retain Current Talent
When talent is so hard to find, employers must make every effort to keep their best employees on board. Prevent turnover among skilled laborers by improving the employee experience. For example, provide flexible scheduling options and reward employees for meeting safety goals.

Create a Talent Pipeline
Quickly fill open positions by building a talent pipeline. When recruiting, construction hiring managers should keep a running list of potential hires comprising “silver medalist” candidates who missed out to an eventual “winner,” and applicants who were not an exact fit for the position for which they originally applied. Then, when a new position opens, the perfect candidate is just a phone call or email away.

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