Mentoring: A Possible Solution to the Generational Skills Gap

Jun 13, 2015

The Baby Boomer generation is defined as those born roughly between 1946 and 1964. That means that today, they’re between the ages of 53 and 71, and they are retiring at a rate of 10,000 people per day. Given those troubling statistics, guiding new graduates into the construction industry has never been more important.

Within 10 years, the Baby Boomers will be completely in retirement mode. Construction companies, MEP firms, and specialty contractors will all find themselves saddled with work and without anyone skilled enough to do it. To prevent skills gaps from impacting your company when your talented tradespeople retire, it’s crucial to start investing in emerging talent today.

Change Your Recruiting Strategies

For workers from the Baby Boomer and Generation X groups, finding work was primarily about improving their lives, with career advancement, personal prestige, and money. They defined competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits, and opportunities for financial growth as the most important criteria when deciding whether to take or stay with a job. For Millennials, who now occupy the majority of the workforce, and the Generation Z cohort that follows them, those things are still important, but they’re no longer the most important considerations. Instead, these generations place a premium on the ability to make a difference in their organization and in the world.

Tap into that desire, and shift your recruitment strategies from focusing primarily on compensation to emphasizing your company’s commitment to having a positive impact on the community and the world. If you don’t already have one, create a community outreach program and incentivize your employees to participate, or develop a task force dedicated to researching ways to improve your company’s environmental impact, both in-house and through your contracted projects. We have seen that if you show young talent that you are as excited as they are about making a difference, they will be much more likely to get on board with job opportunities they may not have considered before.

Invest in Training and Mentoring Your Recruits

One of the most important training tools in your arsenal is your Baby Boomer workforce itself. We have seen time and time again that older workers are eager to mentor and coach incoming talent. They understand that without passing on their wisdom and experience to a new generation of workers, that knowledge could all get lost. What a waste! Implement a policy where each of your skilled tradespeople takes a new recruit under his or her wing. Not only will they be able to provide invaluable training and advice, but these mentoring partnerships can benefit the mentor as much as the mentee. Younger workers can provide help with new technologies and bring fresh perspectives to old problems. By pairing up talented Baby Boomers with eager young workers, you provide each of them with opportunities for growth and express confidence in their respective, unique abilities.

Take Advantage of Existing Networks

As important as recruiting high-potential talent is, it does not have to be complicated. Challenge each of the tradesmen who are heading toward retirement to find a mentee, and open the challenge to the rest of your organization. Whether they’re looking within their own families or considering potential candidates from shared volunteer opportunities or neighborhoods, you’ll be surprised by how many employees might know recent or soon-to-be graduates who are looking for excellent, long-term career opportunities. Reach out within those networks and implement the new recruiting strategies you’ve developed!

Don’t Get Left Behind

The key to the future of the construction industry is identifying, recruiting, and training young graduates who want the chance to make a difference, as well as to earn a living. We are seeing companies invest in this talent pool and provide lifelong skills to eager, young workers, and it is paying off as they strengthen their organizations and eliminate the threat of a skills gap when their older workers retire. Don’t get left behind; start planning for the future today, and your company can coast through the generational workforce shift with a strong team of talented, loyal tradespeople.

About the Author

Joanne Nikolski

Joanne joined Kimmel & Associates in 2007, bringing with her more than 25 years of experience in recruiting and sales. She is now a Senior Recruiter in the General Construction Division. Joanne also specializes in the disaster restoration industry.

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