The Wall Street Journal recently reported that younger professionals are steering away from construction jobs. This is, of course, a problem for an industry already struggling to attract skilled construction professionals in the wake of the most recent recession.

In the article, the Journal notes analysis of statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau by Issi Romem, chief economist at the construction data firm BuildZoom. He noted that young construction workers — under the age of 24 — dropped by 30% between 2005 and 2016, and that 48 states have suffered from a decline of young construction professionals.

Contractors need to find new ways to appeal to younger generations of workers.

A Host of Contributing Factors

There are varied reasons why young professionals are moving away from the construction arena despite relatively high pay and fewer demands for a four-year college education.

Some have argued there has been a lack of focus on and availability of education and training opportunities geared toward younger generations. From trade schools and community colleges with one- and two-year degree programs to apprenticeships and trade certification programs, opportunities to educate, train and excite youth about construction opportunities have dwindled.

Others say the this extends into the public education systems in junior high and high schools as well, as curriculums are deemphasizing trade skills like carpentry. That’s why construction associations like the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors and others have stepped up efforts in recent years to support and promote trade educational opportunities.

Others have theorized that the problem lies with a disconnect between younger generations and the generations that preceded them when it comes to demands of a job. A 2017 report by the NAHB Economics and Housing Policy Group noted that 63% of young adults surveyed who were undecided about their careers said there was “no or little chance they’d consider a career in the construction trades.” Of those, 48% indicated they wanted a less physically demanding career and 32% felt that construction work was too difficult.

Arguments have been made that older generations are clinging to their careers for longer, making prime opportunities within construction firms and paths for career advancement less appealing. Some younger professionals have also noted chilly receptions by their elder peers when presenting new ideas or concepts.

Can Construction Technology Help?

While all of the aforementioned indicators have certainly played their part in blunting the appeal of construction for younger professionals, perhaps the key issue is image. The construction industry has long been considered a dinosaur when it comes to innovation and adoption of technology — an image the industry is still fighting today, even as the industry itself is in the midst of a technological evolution.

Today’s leading construction firms are not just adopting new technologies, they’re embracing them and working to develop future innovations. They are using them to modernize workplaces — both in the office and the field — and adapting to the younger generation’s native use of technology as they’ve come of age.

Contractors have realized that surviving today’s construction demands by relying on manual processes that worked in the past or remaining reliant on outdated software programs not capable of delivering real-time results simply won’t work. Today’s contractor has gone digital, taking full advantage of integrated, cloud-based software platforms to automate workflows, dig deeper into data analytics, transform construction collaboration into a fluid, energized process and much more. They’re deploying the latest mobile applications, utilizing drones and rolling out wearable tech like Spot-R safety tracking clips and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Maybe it’s time to sell young professionals on the transformation they could be seeing and using in this industry, and how innovations like software is automating and simplifying work. Let’s educate them on the technology opportunities they could introduce to stake out their own career paths within construction organizations. That would mean that contractors still lagging when it comes to adoption of new and emerging technologies should probably ante up to stay competitive, while those that are utilizing the latest tech should be spotlighting their mastery to attract younger professionals.

To speak to a construction-specific technology expert about how Viewpoint can help bring contractors meet modern demands, visit our website: www.viewpoint.com. We’re always happy to help.

Posted by Andy Holtmann

Andy is Marketing Content & PR Manager at Viewpoint. He has worked in the construction software arena since 2011. Previously, he netted multiple awards as a newspaper and trade media editor.