Combating Workforce Shortage with Fun by: Patrick Stern
In construction, engineering, and design, we have a problem.
Since the Great Recession ended, there has been a sharp uptick in the volume of work for every segment of the industry. But that uptick has been severely limited by the shortage of skilled labor. Roofers aren’t able to take on more work, and many projects aren’t able to meet deadlines strictly from a lack of labor.
Some studies indicate that there is a roughly 5% lower contribution to the national GDP from construction than under typical conditions because of worker shortages in every region in the nation. Many made the decision to retire during the recession and precious few entered skilled trades during those hard years. Many states, counties, and labor organizations have launched programs for high schoolers and young adults, but every program aimed at kids shut down.
We decided to buck that trend and formed Kids Building Wisconsin, a non-profit aimed at getting kids interested in construction. With the help of our industry partners, we launched an annual event to show kids and parents firsthand what it is that we do. If we can get kids to have fun while seeing what kinds of opportunities there are out there and what they have to learn to get there, we’re doing our part to help the industry and destigmatize the idea of working in skilled labor.
Now in its third year, with over 2,000 kids a year coming to our event, over 40 sponsors and, over two dozen hands on exhibits, we feel like we’re cracking into something real and beneficial for the industry. It’s a soft sell, to show how we have high job satisfaction, good benefits and pay, but most importantly, that we have fun doing what it is that we do.
And maybe, just maybe, the effort of everyone who has helped to shape our event into a success for three years now will see a benefit for their workforces ten years from now. It’s the kind of long term commitment and community care that our industry generates. And it’s just the start. We’ll be rolling out more and more programs as our efforts gain ground. Just keep watching KidsbuildingWI.org and watch what we do. It’s going to be fun.