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Industry Insight Resources Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

How Severe is the Construction Industry’s Labor Shortage?

A lack of skilled workers is nothing new to the construction industry. Trade organizations, hiring managers, and small businesses have been complaining that the trades just aren’t attracting young adults anymore, and the current workforce is aging out.

But that labor shortage became even more apparent during the pandemic. With fewer people willing to risk going to work combined with a boom in residential construction, the labor shortage continued to grow. How severe is the issue, and how can it get better? These are the questions the industry should be asking.

How Severe is the Construction Industry’s Labor Shortage?

While the construction industry faced labor shortages in the past (think back to the housing boom of the 2000s), the one it’s facing now is a serious challenge. Estimates show that to keep up with current demand, the US construction industry would have to add 650,000 skilled workers to its ranks. If projections are correct, the current trajectory will require 2.2 million new workers within the next three years just to meet current housing needs.

The Canadian outlook is actually worse. Numbers in Canada require hiring an additional 80,000 workers. Considering population numbers, this is a higher percentage than the issue seen in the US.

What’s causing it?

Retirements

Plain and simple: folks are retiring. The average age of retirement for construction workers in the US is 61 years old. In Canada, the age of retirement across all industries is slightly higher at 64 years old. With over 20 percent of the industry’s workforce being over 55, they’re leaving in droves. 

The pandemic didn’t help. The Great Recession helped many employees find the door, spurring moves to other industries as well as trips to social security offices around the country. 

Lack of Young People

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the interest of young people in entering the construction trade is far too low. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 20 to 24-year-old segment made up just 7 percent of the survey respondents working in the construction industry. 

The root cause of this issue is the younger generation’s upbringing that focuses on college and degrees rather than skills or licenses. Instead of construction, this age group is seeking employment in the medical, business/management, and tech or IT fields. 

Market Competition

Even if there wasn’t a housing boom at hand, the industry would be in trouble. Unemployment rates are low, while vacant job numbers are very high, indicating that every industry is facing the same shortage. In this environment, job seekers have options.

Construction employees are leaving job sites for better working conditions in the service or warehouse industries. Those that are staying in construction, they’re able to bounce from employer to employer in search of better pay and better healthcare.

Increased Demand

The pandemic might’ve shut some individual job sites down, but it didn’t slow the construction industry much. Project volumes ballooned with a shift from typical commercial construction to a focus on residential home building. Folks were leaving cities in droves, building new houses, or renovating older ones in the country in order to escape the monotony of struggling cities.

Commercial construction’s direction changed as well. With so many folks staying home and ordering their goods online, fulfillment centers became a precious commodity. Warehouse construction is experiencing a boom in volume without a boom in skilled labor.

What Does This Mean for the Industry?

Ultimately, the labor shortage will have a profound effect on the construction industry. Business owners will need to offset increased costs, and keeping projects on track will seem an impossible task. 

Increased Prices

Construction companies big and small have had to increase the amount they pay their employees over the course of the pandemic. They’ve also had to improve employee benefits to sweeten the deal. The issue is that with already slim profit margins, these companies have had to offload these increased costs of doing business onto customers and project owners.

More Delays

One of the issues of hiring during a labor shortage is that it’s not always possible to find quality employees or vet their experience before hiring. Many projects have gone off the rails in recent history due to poor quality and low productivity. Couple those issues with up to 25 percent of project owners reporting delayed or incomplete deliveries, and delays abound.

Lack of Experienced Leadership

With so much of the experienced workforce hanging up their hardhats, there’s going to be a marked reduction in seasoned leadership. Employers will be forced to promote less experienced employees to foreman or project management positions than they had in the past. While there’s always a learning curve, this lack of experience may cause a ripple effect through the workforce, possibly causing lower productivity, more waste, and more inefficiencies until this group of managers matures.

What Can the Construction Industry Do About the Shortage?

Construction as a whole has been trying to solve the labor shortage issue for a very long time. However, there are a few moves that companies can make to lessen the impact a labor shortage has on the company’s growth.

Consider Improving Wages and Benefits

The modern job seeker has options, and it’s important that companies make their outfit the most attractive. Higher pay than the competition is certainly helpful, but so are better healthcare programs, fringe benefits like childcare reimbursement, tuition assistance, or more days off for time with family. 

These changes may increase younger job seekers’ attention, giving the construction industry a leg up on manufacturing or e-commerce. They can also help one company stand out against the rest. While this will ultimately cost the company more money, it may be one of the only ways to keep a staff full during a continental labor shortage.

Focus on Training

Rather than finding new skilled labor, construction companies can attempt to mold current employees into skilled ones. Investing in tuition or training programs will help employees learn the types of skills that a company can build on. Sending them to specialized schools or setting up programs where senior staff mentors them on their way towards licensure may also be options.

While there is always a risk in training someone only to lose them to another company, consider that it’s possible to invest in a person’s future and create a loyal employee. It also gives employees the feeling that the employer cares—something today’s generation of job seekers is looking for. This can help retain staff rather than let them slip away to competitors offering slightly more money.

Reduce Inefficiencies

Getting more boots on the ground is a challenge that will take long-term planning, so the construction industry needs to focus on finding solutions in the interim. One move that most construction companies could benefit from is reducing inefficiencies through technology.

For example, companies that switch from basic accounting software to construction-specific management software can lower some of their dependence on specific manpower. These software programs are customizable, allowing users to tailor workflows, create custom forms, provide wireless access to current drawings, and track progress through accurate, up-to-date job costing reports.

While technology might not replace skilled labor, it can help make management personnel more efficient. With access to cloud-based drawing storage, site leadership can ensure the crews are working from the most current drawings to prevent mistakes. These folks will also be able to send and receive RFIs and change orders and their approvals from the site, potentially reducing the need to leave for administrative tasks.

Promote Awareness

The construction industry still has a stigma, and it’s preventing younger job seekers from considering it as a potential career path. The idea of it being a low-paying, gruff boys’ club is keeping folks with degrees from joining the ranks of new electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and other trades.

The industry must consider promoting awareness that a career in construction can be a fulfilling and inclusive one. With the potential for promotions, a great living, and competitive benefits, getting the word out that construction could be a viable option for young folks shouldn’t be hard.

Part of promoting awareness may mean shifting the focus from marketing the business to marketing the careers. Senior management may need to partner with local youth organizations and social groups to encourage open dialogue about the industry. Adopting modern media streams like social media, YouTube, and podcasts can help reach younger audiences as well.

None of these tactics will have an immediate impact on the labor shortage, but they can help change the stigma that construction is a dead-end career choice. Young folks who are on the fence about what to do after high school or college may not be considering the industry, and some pointed effort can help. 

The Labor Shortage Isn’t Going Away—Companies Have to Act Now

Ultimately, every industry is feeling the pain of the labor shortage. Construction, however, is particularly affected since it needs skilled workers. It’s important that the industry—and the companies that comprise it—make the moves necessary to attract new employees, retain current ones, and make sure they’re operating as efficiently as possible over the next decade.

Get your business back in financial control amidst the labor shortages. Find out how Premier can empower your business for success.

Schedule a demo today.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

Economics of Construction, Post-Covid

As more and more states relax pandemic restrictions, the construction industry is beginning to return to normal. All be it a new normal, as contractors continue to struggle with material shortages, higher prices, and a labor shortage. Still, most economists predict that construction will continue to rise throughout 2022.

Looking at 2022, I would say I’m nervously optimistic. Nonresidential construction, by and large, seems to have passed the low point and is on an upswing.

– Ken Simonson, Chief Economist for the Associated General Contractors of America

With the passing of the infrastructure bill, many large federal projects are expected to go online in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2022, giving a much-needed boost to the industry.

“I think that 2022 is going to be very busy for you all,” says Anirban Basu, chief economist for Associated Builders and Contractors and CEO of consulting firm Sage Policy Group. “Think very long and hard before you enter into contractual obligations. Make sure you build enough margin and contingency.”

Basu predicts a rise in state and local spending on construction going forward, including school construction. Contractors will need to ramp up their operations to handle the influx of available work.

“I think, to be successful, it’s going to help to be bigger,” he says. “Significant technologies are more expensive, and recruiting costs are significant, and training costs are significant. It’s nice to have a larger line of credit and more bonding capacity to go after some of these large-scale projects that are coming down the pipe, whether in infrastructure or other segments.”

The continued increase in volume can be tied to the effects of the pandemic both on the industry and the general population. “The impact of COVID has been far from equal,” notes Global Construction Perspectives director Mike Betts. “In most countries it’s been negative but in some, it’s been positive as working from home has encouraged people to invest more in their homes.”

This investment has led to a steady recovery for the industry over the past year and a half.

Continuing challenges

However, we aren’t out of the woods yet. Many contractors are struggling with the residual effects of COVID shutdowns that occurred two years ago. Workers and building materials are hard to come by and are more expensive than they were before the pandemic began.

Labor shortage

The construction industry continues to struggle with bringing new talent to the industry. The perception of construction jobs as dirty and physically demanding may be a part of the problem, along with the societal view that students graduating from high school should all want to seek a college education. The fact is that college isn’t for everyone, and construction careers can be performed by anyone given enough training. Most journeymen tradespeople get paid more than their college-educated friends and don’t have the tuition debt to show for it.

In the industry, there were 345,000 unfilled jobs at the end of November 2021. That was actually down from October when openings hit an all-time high of 455,000, but up from 261,000 a year earlier, a 32% jump, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of the answers some companies are pursuing is the adoption of technology. Today’s young workers grew up with technology, so they are more comfortable with it than past generations. Contractors are recruiting young workers to help with scheduling, estimating, and project management, which most companies use software for. Upcoming tech for virtual reality, drones, robotics, and building information modeling (BIM) is driving the surge of young people to the industry.

Supply chain issues

A combination of production and shipping delays and rising material prices has created a problem for contractors on current projects. Production stoppages due to the pandemic and trucking and shipping disputes have caused project delays and price increases.

“The good news is we are starting to see factory output come back to close to where it was prior to the pandemic,” Richard Branch, chief economist at Dodge Data & Analytics said. “That should help the supply side, and if we start to see some improvements with the log jams at ports, perhaps by the backside of 2022, we might see some reprieve from these higher prices.”

“I’ve gotten more optimistic about material prices,” Simonson said. He doesn’t expect them to return to pre-pandemic levels but anticipates more up and down volatility, which is better than the upward swing many material prices took through 2021.

Some contractors dealt with the material shortage by stockpiling materials they used on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this is exacerbating the current supply crunch.

Some of it is a shortage, and some of it is shipping, but some of it is still a little bit of fear, where people are buying products to try to protect themselves. That’s driving up the demand, which does not help the overall industry.

– Deron Brown, President & COO of U.S. Operations for Edmonton, Canada-based PCL Construction  

Experts don’t see supply chain issues being resolved completely until sometime in 2023. Contractors need to keep this in mind and be proactive with purchasing to ensure project timelines are met.

Positive outlook

Overall, it appears that the construction industry is set to continue its rebound. Contractors are learning to deal with shortages in labor and materials, and these will continue to be problematic. Adopting technology, like project management software, can attract younger workers and make systems more efficient, reducing company overhead costs.

For more on how Premier Construction Software can help your company, request a free demonstration.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Features Industry Insight Tips & Advice Ultimate Guide

Are Project Management Solutions Really the Solution?

When shopping for construction project management software, it can be difficult to determine if it’s best to go with a standalone service or an all-in-one that includes accounting. Both have their pluses and minuses, and a lot depends on how you run your business and the size of your staff.  

Premier Construction Software provides an all-in-one solution for your project management, accounting, and financial data needs. And while standalone PM solutions may look attractive, they really create more work than they save. Here are some of the features that Premier provides that standalone products don’t. 

Real-time cost data 

Some standalone project management solutions sync data with the accounting software at the end of the day or when told to manually. So, the data that is represented in the PM solution can be hours or days old. Project managers can’t be sure that they are looking at the latest and greatest information unless they sync the data themselves. 

With Premier, project managers have instant access to all cost and budget data and details as soon as it’s entered. This includes updates to project estimates when budget change orders are approved. The software automatically updates the budget and creates progress billing lines. Project managers can be confident that the information they have, even when accessed on a mobile device in the field, is accurate and up to date. This helps them make better decisions about the project to keep it on schedule and on budget. 

 

Access to all financial data 

Some standalone solutions provide only general information about costs, such as subtotals by cost type or grand totals. Managers can’t drill down into the data specifics because not all the data is shared with the PM solution. 

Premier’s financial data isn’t based on what one program does and doesn’t share with another. All of its information comes directly from the source, allowing project managers to get the information they need, including details and documents. They can look at all costs for a cost code and type and determine if a transaction has been coded correctly, ensuring that costs are properly allocated. Using the forecasting module, PMs can account for unanticipated costs and request internal budget transfers to keep the project on track. 

 

Custom billing forms 

Some solutions provide standard billing forms (like the AIA G702 and 703), but there isn’t much flexibility. Or they only provide templates for generalized invoices. Companies have to create their own invoice templates outside the system to meet their client’s needs. Then that information has to be entered into the accounting software, creating two sources for original data. This double-entry can lead to costly errors. 

Premier’s customized billing forms allow you to design just the form you need to match your client’s requirements. This flexibility allows you to present your billing the way your client wants to see it without adopting a workaround. You only have to enter the data once and have access to all the documents and reports you need to support the billing. Need to make a correction? Instead of a lengthy voiding process, our software allows you to quickly make one-click edits and simple invoice reversals. 

 

Detailed reporting 

Some standalone solutions only receive summary cost data from the accounting system. The export of data doesn’t include detailed information or images of documents to help users research issues. If a problem or question comes up, workers must look at multiple sources to find the information they need. 

Premier offers the ability to drill down to specific transactions and get all the information you need to solve a problem or answer a question in just one platform. Reports can be customized to provide as much, or as little data as is necessary. From generalized summary reports to detailed transaction reports, PMs can get the level of information they need to keep their projects on budget. This allows project managers to quickly get the accurate information they need to manage the project and make key decisions. 

 

Equipment and inventory cost integrations 

Some standalone PM solutions don’t support inventory or equipment cost and revenue tracking. Most companies choose to track these separately in a spreadsheet or by hand as a workaround. This can lead to potential mistakes and inaccurate cost and revenue data. 

Premier’s integrated equipment and inventory modules provide tracking, costing, and purchasing tasks that help ensure the accuracy of billing and cost data. You can track equipment-related expenses and assign mark-ups by the hour, day, week, or month. It also enables you to track historical supplier pricing and assign custom billing prices with custom mark-up codes. This ensures your company gets the revenue it deserves when using its own inventory and equipment and lets you know when it’s time to invest in new equipment or purchase more inventory. 

Automation 

Some PM solutions offer little or no automation of tasks. In addition, because data must be entered into the accounting system and the PM system, they require double the amount of work to keep data accurate in both systems.

Premier allows automation of routine and repetitive tasks, like repetitive invoice entry and automatic pay when paid payments. In addition, when an approved change order is received, the software auto-generates progress billing lines and creates and emails subcontract and purchase order change orders to subcontractors and suppliers. This saves workers time and creates workflow efficiency. 

And now for our verdict…

Premier allows contractors and subcontractors to get the real-time data they need to the level of detail they require, provide custom billing forms, track equipment, and inventory expenses and revenues, and take advantage of automation to increase productivity and efficiency. For more information or a free demo, invest in your business and contact Premier today.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Industry Insight Tips & Advice

Go Mobile: 5 Reasons to Transition to Mobile Devices for Construction Reporting

Construction is a unique industry, where most of the work takes place off-site. This can lead to unique communication challenges, many of which have been reduced thanks to mobile technology. 

In the 2021 Construction Technology Report, the annual survey found that every year since 2018 over 90% of respondents is using smartphones daily. During the same period, tablet use has been increasing. Construction companies are increasingly recognizing the value of going mobile.  

Here are the top five reasons construction companies use mobile devices on the job, according to the survey: 

  • Daily reports 
  • Photos and video
  • Time management 
  • Safety management 
  • Drawing management 

While most companies are actively adopting mobile technology, some still rely on tried-and-true paper documentation. Due to the nature of the work, this can lead to project delays and added costs due to rework. Adopting mobile technology has several benefits for construction companies. 

Benefits of going mobile

  1. Better communication

Construction projects require almost constant communication between team members and the office. A lapse in communication can lead to errors and rework. Using mobile devices allows workers to communicate with the office and other team members while still in the field. There’s less wasted time in meetings and going to the office. Improved communication leads to better outcomes in the field, reducing errors and rework. Team members’ questions get answered quickly and efficiently without downtime. 

  1. Access real-time information

Many mobile apps allow field workers to provide input to and pull up reports, drawings, and emails without leaving the field. Project managers can see budget reports at any time, so they know where the project is. Supervisors can access productivity reports and compare them to past reports. Team members don’t have to wait for reports to be generated, they can access them when they need them. This allows them to make better project decisions quickly, avoiding schedule delays. 

  1. Improve productivity

With access to data at their fingertips, workers spend less time in meetings, going to the office, and on phone calls. They can spend their time actively working on the project, instead of looking for lost documents, timecards, or other paperwork. Productivity is maintained and efficiency is improved through the use of mobile technology. 

  1. Improve organization

Mobile apps provide document management, helping workers find the information they need when they need it. Workers no longer have to spend time looking through multiple folders on a shared drive or combing through files in a truck. Drawings are automatically marked with revisions, making it easy to know when you’re working with the current version. This helps prevent mistakes due to lack of communication and reduces rework. 

  1. Integration

Integrating information between the field and the office improves productivity, prevents mistakes, and improves organization. Workers spend less time reentering data into multiple systems and are able to be more productive in their work. Data entry mistakes are reduced, and information is available at the touch of a button, instead of waiting for lengthy reports. 

Premier Construction Software allows teams to communicate in real-time, from the field and the office. This improves communication, gives teams access to real-time data, improves productivity and organization, and is completely integrated. The mobile connection saves companies time and money on slow paper processes. It helps ensure that everyone is working from the same data at the same time. 

If your company is ready to go mobile with your project management and accounting software, contact us for a demo or to answer any questions. 

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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How Construction Is Moving Toward an Automated World

Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.

Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.

Automation in Construction

Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.

Smart Contracts

Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur. 

For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.

This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

Compliance Automation

Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.

Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.

Document Management

As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.

Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.

Automated Payments

Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.

Invoice Management

Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under. 

Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page. 

Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.

Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.

Automation Is the Future

Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s automated systems to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes.