Why Gen Z May Be the Answer to Construction & Demolition Labor Shortage

Gen Z graduation ceremonyIt’s not news that Portland demolition contractors are facing a labor shortage and the potential disruption new technologies will have on the industry. The construction industry is in transition as baby boomers retire in increasing numbers and a new generation enters the industry.

While the local construction economy is booming, Portland demolition contractors continue to seek skilled tradespeople. This has resulted in a loss of contracts simply because industrial demolition companies don’t have the labor to perform the job.

In the construction industry, it is projected that “1.1 million workers [will] seek retirement by 2024.” This represents an urgent need to replace and develop that workforce and to engage young professionals.

It was thought that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) would seek careers in the C&D industry; however, that wasn’t the case. Many industrial demolition companies in Portland are  now turning their focus to Gen Z. Gen Z is comprised of those born between 1995 and 2010 and are now ages 9 through 24.

gen z ages factGen Z will likely will be drawn to the “financially prudent, entrepreneurial and hands-on aspects of construction.” This is occurring, in part, because they have witnessed rising costs in higher education. Many are turning to trades where they can earn a good living without going into debt.

How to Attract Gen Z to the Construction & Demolition Industry

Gen Z is a very forward-thinking generation and is concerned about planning for retirement. Sixty-six percent of Gen Z values financial stability over other factors, such as work culture. This means it’s important to emphasize how lucrative construction and industrial demolition careers can be.

Additionally, Gen Z looks to mentors to help them cultivate and grow their careers. Providing internships and apprenticeships is a must to attract this generation. Sadly, many of these programs were rolled back because of the recession and have not been expanded to suit the younger labor market.

gen z values

There will also have to be an effort to portray the trades as a worthy and rewarding career choice. These efforts should start not in college, but in high school where students are contemplating their careers. Gen Z wants to establish a career as early as possible, with many wanting to establish a career in their twenties.

What’s more, 58% of Gen Z wants to “start a business someday and that 14% already have”. This entrepreneurial spirit will be important to cultivate and to emphasize that the trades demand a similar spirit in order to get a long and rewarding career.

Other Answers to Labor Shortages

brick layingThe growth of new technologies, especially in robotics and increased automation, may help curb labor shortages. Technologies, from drones to 3D printers used to create homes can boost output without a huge need for labor.

Robots excel in performing dangerous jobs. This includes doing repetitive tasks (using tools such as jackhammers and the long-term use of vibrating equipment), which is linked to nerve damage.

Drones make surveying potentially dangerous or hazardous areas much easier and safer for the worker. Many similar advances can provide workers a safer environment that is less impactful on their health and wellbeing.

However, robots cannot fully replace human labor. No robot can replicate the precision and craftsmanship of a professional bricklayer, for example. However, they will continue to shape how industrial demolition companies will operate in the future.

Providing mentorship opportunities and sharing information about job trajectories and salaries, are great ways to educate Gen Z of the many benefits of a career in the skilled trades.

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