A culture shift has been happening for more than 30 years—one that has driven more young adults to college and away from the trades. This has led to a significant shortage of workers in the construction industry.

In the most recent AGC Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook survey, 75% of construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2018, yet 82% say it will either become harder or remain difficult to recruit or hire qualified workers this year.

The solution comes down to three key factors: partner with local high schools or colleges to encourage young individuals to become interested in technology, get involved with government and public policy, and leverage technology.

All three of these are beginning to happen in a number of different ways. As one example, MIAT College of Technology recently introduced welding programs at its Houston campus and electro-mechanical technology programs at its Detroit Metro campus. The welding program gives graduates skill sets that employers are seeking, while electro-mechanical graduates will be able to support a wide variety of industries.

Colleges themselves are introducing new programs, but so too are construction companies. As one example, Burns & McDonnell recently hired its first alumna from the Battle of the Brains K-12 STEM competition, which gives students a chance to compete to win grant money and the opportunity to work with STEM professionals to build an exhibit at Science City. Today, the first student who won the competition can now call herself an intern of the company.

Further, technology can play a key role in helping solve the skilled labor shortage. There are two key fundamental ways technology can help. It can help make crews more efficient, thus not needing as much workforce. It can also entice the younger generation to join the industry. Such technology includes: data walls, huddlewalls, virtual reality caves, telematics, drones, and wearables—just to name a few.

This will be a topic of conversation at the Constructech Technology Day 2018. Executives from Miron Construction, F.H. Paschen, Ryan Companies, The Boldt Co., and editorial director Peggy Smedley will take the stage to explore current challenges and future opportunities for leveraging technology to solve the worker shortage.

With a combination of education, public policy, and technology, the industry can begin to address the shortage—but it requires constant conversation from the industry as a whole to inspire the next generation.

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