Construction Workers: The Labor Shortage Continues

What makes a successful hire?

One of the ongoing challenges to the construction industry–and therefore a concern to any business planning to build new offices, warehouses, factories, etc.–is the ongoing labor shortage of qualified construction workers.

Young people are not entering building professions in the numbers they used to. So with a smaller labor pool, where are contractors finding qualified candidates to fill their open positions?

Here’s an interesting article from Construction Informer Blog:

Where are managers finding new talent? Nearly 80% report using online recruiting tools, while 68% offer incentives to employees who refer someone. Sixty-three percent use internships or co-ops, and just about the same amount, nearly 60%, use professional recruiters, external referrals and job postings on company websites.

Respondents also weighed-in on what educational backgrounds had proven to be most successful in new hires. Regardless of whether the new hire was management or trade/craft, respondents said they had the best luck with people having construction management education or engineering.

The top personal skills named by the respondents that were predictive of a successful hire were communications skills (named by 23%), leadership (17%), and strategic thinking (11%). Two of those, communicating effectively and strategic thinking were named as the most difficult to develop in field managers, followed by coaching and mentoring. For project managers, respondents said the most difficult to develop were communicating effectively, strategic thinking, leading others and coaching and mentoring, in that order.

This problem with finding skilled labor is just one more reason you have to be very careful when  you hire contractors. Inquire into the skills and experience of your contractors’ personnel. Better yet, have your Project Manager, who knows just the right areas you should be concerned about, to handle hiring of contractors for  you.


Construction Site Video: Here To Stay?

Video cameras are everywhere these days. And now that they’re built into most cell phones, they’re even more ubiquitous than just a couple of years ago. Today, the increase in the number of construction site video cameras and the paybacks they deliver are almost as broad as the roles of people using them.

If you’re not already familiar with this trend, here’s a great article from ENR.Com:

Mark Penny, a senior vice president for the Dallas region of Manhattan Construction Inc., says his company, a large, self-performing general contractor, has used many vendors, although it most recently has turned to EarthCam. “We have a lot of high-profile jobs that people want to see. They are a great opportunity for us and the client to showcase the construction, which makes the job of selling what we do a lot easier,” he notes.

Penny says the cameras can improve security, but “that’s not their primary use.” The photographic record also can verify that activities such as concrete placement are done on schedule. But, he says, “in the end, we have a time-lapse video that’s just a great wrap-up marketing piece. We have a lot of high-profile jobs that people want to see. They are a great opportunity for us and the client to showcase the construction, which makes the job of selling what we do a lot easier,” he notes.

Penny says Manhattan doesn’t use job cams for safety monitoring, either. “We have on-site safety guys. If we are doing that on a webcam, we may feel we are missing the mark,” Penny says.

Site cams do everything from showing project progress and quality control to showcasing sites that the project owner wants to share with his investors, board of directors or other key officers and officials.  Many project managers report increased productivity when cameras are in place, resulting in ROI’s many times the cost of the camera equipment itself.

What are the costs?  The article continues:

Hardware and plans vary from low-resolution off-line cameras that store images for retrieval to ultra-high-resolution units that have big zoom lenses and internet-operable controls. Users can vary shot frequency and pan, tilt and zoom, or PTZ, at will. The images stream to websites and storage systems. Costs vary from a few hundred dollars a month to $30,000 or more per camera per job, depending on the level of sophistication and service.


Are these cameras merely for show, or do they actually provide financial returns on the jobsite. Time will tell. We suspect they’ll be around for a long time.


Picking A Great Project Leader: Think Football.

An article caught my eye the other day about the similarity between a great project leader and a great football coach. The best project managers are usually the best planners. Same with football coaches.

Check out this brief article from Best Practices Construction Law:

Coaching football.
Successful football organizations consist of specialized teams or units: (a) the offense; (b) the defense; and (c) and special teams. Within those teams there is often a further specialization. For example, the defensive team consists of linemen, linebackers and secondary. All of these specialized units must plan and work together in order to be successful. In construction, the specialized units consist of crews headed by project engineers and/or foremen.

Planning the project.
After a contract is awarded, the contractor’s first task is to put together a project management team. The makeup of the team will obviously depend on the size of the project and the contractor’s field personnel. On a big project constructed by a large company, there may be project engineers. On a smaller project, there may only be foremen. The team may or may not have been involved with estimating the project. Once the team has been assembled, the project engineers and foremen must study the plans and specifications in great detail. The project engineers must consult with the estimators to learn how the estimators conceptualized and bid the project. Taking the estimators’ concepts, the project engineers and/or foremen develop a detailed, coherent work plan for constructing the project.

Only change I’d suggest in this comparison is that, in our experience, a well-experienced and properly credentialed project manager is needed to field marshal the entire construction process–including the hiring of the general contractor. The project manager is your man on the team. He keeps open communications with the contractor, pushes for deadlines, analyzes issues that crop up, and when he does his job right, saves you money and time on the project.