How Can Construction Attract More Workers?

Why don’t more people want to work in the industry? A recent panel event featuring industry experts tried to find the answer

How can the global construction industry attract more young workers?

That was the major question occupying the minds of industry insiders this past November in London at an exclusive screening of a new documentary, “Now Hiring: The World’s Greatest Industry,” produced by The B1M in partnership with Bluebeam.

The construction industry is vital to the global economy. But compared to other sectors like technology, finance, law and business, it struggles to attract young workers to its global ranks.

There are roughly 340,000 open construction jobs in the United States as of September 2019, according to the most recent available data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Europe, the share of adults aged 25-49 who work in construction shrunk from 65.3% in 2008 to 61.8% in 2015, according to data from the European Commission.

Following the documentary’s screening, a panel of industry leaders from subsectors such as design, technology and academia looked at some of the reasons behind the industry’s hiring challenge.

What more can the construction industry do to attract young people?

Emily Heppard, Academic Manager, Bluebeam Inc.: “In some ways, we can work backwards. To say that if you are passionate about solving our climate emergency; if you are passionate about creating spaces for people of different abilities; if you are passionate about creating healthcare spaces that promote and facilitate healing and recovery, rather than detract from them. If those are the issues that you are passionate about, then there is a place for you in construction.”

What can employers do to attract more people to the sector?

David Milnes, Digital Construction Manager, BAM Nuttall: “I think that there might be a traditional way of engaging with schools, and I think we do need to focus on how we do that, and how we can do that so that we’re a bit more inspirational. And I think technology and the change that’s going on in the industry is making it such a more interesting place to be.”

Attendees took in an exclusive screening of "Now Hiring: The World's Greatest Industry" in London in November.
Attendees took in an exclusive screening of “Now Hiring: The World’s Greatest Industry” in London in November.

What attracted you to work in construction?

Niya Borissova, graduate of London South Bank University pursuing a master’s degree in construction management and economics: “To be honest, first, when I was deciding what I wanted to do, I didn’t know if I was going to work in construction. I wanted to study law. Then I said to myself, ‘I’m not passionate about it. I can’t make change out of it. What influence am I going to bring and how am I going to inspire myself to do it?’ Once I started understanding how the industry is based and what it offers to you and what you can offer to the industry—that’s when I understood that this is my sector.”

What can education institutions do to attract more young people to construction?

Bo Mahs, Educator, Bachelor of Architectural Technology and Construction Management at KEA-Copenhagen: “As an Institute of education, we are doing a lot of thinking forward, because the industry is growing so fast. Like Emily says, it’s about sustainability. We’re thinking about how a building can be used for 100 years instead of just 30 years. What are we going to do in 100 years? Can we split the building apart again and use all the materials elsewhere instead of just dump them down as waste? We’re doing a lot of education about sustainability and learning how to use new materials.”

Here’s how Bluebeam’s Academic Program supports the next generation of industry leaders.