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Building Together: Workforce Talent in the Construction Industry

When the pandemic forced many industries into quarantine and caused many more to rethink how they must operate moving forward, one thing became quite clear: the construction industry is essential and thriving.

Companies across the construction sector lead the way through uncertain times with safety and innovation to continue building. Cranes have dotted cities’ skylines and residential construction boomed during the last year and a half, fueled by a strong demand for bigger living spaces and low residential housing inventory.

Despite this, and similar to other industries, construction is currently facing serious workforce shortages. Construction’s skilled worker shortage has already been a constant theme over the years, but the last two years have placed this lingering concern under a new light. This is a significant issue, given that the sector employs more than 3 million Americans and contributes more than $700 billion annually in construction spending.

Knowledge is Power

Recently, USG CEO Chris Griffin joined other industry leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Forward event to discuss and lend insight into how employers are developing strategies and solutions to address the most pressing workforce challenges in construction.

When asked how we can tackle our current workforce challenge, Griffin says that “we need tools in people’s hands earlier in life. We also need to do a better job letting people know that construction is a solid career choice, providing a good paycheck and lots of opportunities.” This is a belief that Griffin knows firsthand considering his career path started at his family business outside Toronto hanging Sheetrock® and learning the basics of the building industry.

It cannot be stressed enough how big of a role education plays in developing the construction workforce. With an aging workforce, younger generations need to be more aware of the benefits and fulfilling nature of a career in construction trades. Griffin went on to highlight the need for more standardized training in construction skills, including voicing his support for more vocational programs in high schools as well as programs that more successfully prepare people for jobs in the construction industry.

Actionable Goals

While it is important to spread the notion that construction is a viable career choice to ensure the industry's long-term success, it doesn’t do much in terms of getting work boots on the ground and addressing construction’s workforce issues in the short term. So, what are more concrete ways that companies can navigate the tumultuous workforce situation we find ourselves in?

Speaking to this, Griffin also shared three key, actionable strategies that USG has used to help overcome workforce shortages in construction by identifying areas of opportunity and innovation:

  1. Develop innovative products that make jobs easier and less time consuming
  2. Take advantage of industry trends like modular construction, which was already a burgeoning method that was accelerated by the pandemic
    • USG is working with companies who develop prefabricated sections of buildings within a warehouse to be transported and assembled on the job site
    • USG products like our range of Structural Panels are also tailor-made and a contractor favorite for modular builds
  3. Approach training more holistically among industry professionals to increase the technical expertise necessary to assist our customers
    • This ranges from learning how to properly install acoustic ceilings at our Corporate Innovation Center to continuing education units on sustainable building trends to stay on the leading edge of the industry

Listen to the entire panel discussion from Talent Forward here. In addition to Chris Griffin, hear from Sean McGarvey, President of North America’s Building Trades Union, and Judaline Cassidy, Founder of Tools & Tiaras, with Politico Labor Reporter Eleanor Mueller serving as moderator.