We all know that the construction industry is suffering from a nationwide labor-shortage. There is a lot of discussion about the need for executive-level leadership, Project Managers, and Estimators across the board. But while those needs do exist within the curtain wall industry, I’ve noticed a much more prominent trend in recent years: a critical need for engineers and entry-level talent.
Reasons for the Industry’s Entry-Level Woes
The construction industry at large has struggled to attract students and rising young professionals, but the difficulties can be more pronounced within the curtain wall and cladding industry because of a lack of awareness and the highly focused nature of the necessary training. Even students who are interested in studying construction often want training that is broad in scope, and curtain wall work is very precise and represents one facet of construction as opposed to general contracting. In addition, more and more engineering students are focusing on the civil and mechanical side of the engineering world, while the curtain wall industry needs more structural-focused engineers.
There is also a continued reluctance for up-and-coming professionals to join the construction industry (and for existing construction workers to change jobs) due to lingering concerns about the economy and the reality that someday soon, the market will correct itself. Most people don’t want to risk falling victim to “last in, first out” policies.
The Big Draws of Curtain Wall
Fortunately for the curtain wall industry, there are several big factors that will appeal to students and rising professionals. Curtain wall work is high-tech; the industry relies on cutting-edge technology to achieve not just functional materials and design but also artistic and appealing aesthetics. In addition, since curtain wall represents “the face” of buildings, working on these projects allows engineers and designers to leave a visual, noticeable mark. And of course, since the industry has nationwide needs, incoming employees will have job security and high starting salaries.
What Can Your Company Do to Attract Talent?
To start, develop or enhance a student outreach program that provides information about the industry and your company to potential new employees. High schools, technical colleges, and universities are good places to start. Focus on the industry’s high points, and let students see how many exciting projects they can be a part of, such as university and institutional buildings, luxury residences, and museums. Then take a look at your hiring practices: make sure you’re working with a sense of urgency to bring interested candidates on board, and double check that you’re offering fair market value to candidates. For many up-and-coming professionals, benefits are even more important than base salary, so ensure that your benefits -- especially your health care policies -- are excellent.
Curtain wall and cladding work has a lot to offer new construction workers. If you focus on improving outreach and attraction techniques, those workers will help your company strengthen your bench and build a pipeline of talented, excited workers who will contribute to the industry for the long term.