There’s almost universal agreement construction’s biggest issue is productivity; academic studies have identified over 70 problems contributing to this fact. Yet, one topic still remains unaddressed. Why does construction have so many problems in the first place?
Finding a definitive answer may be impossible, but after speaking with industry veterans and looking at employment data, we think we’ve identified a root cause: the public’s negative perception of construction.
To put it simply, construction has an image problem.
The National Association of Homebuilders confirmed construction's image problem in a recent survey of ~2000 young adults ages 18-25. Only 3% of respondents stated they were considering construction as a potential career path. It also revealed a host of other disappointing views of the industry.
Survey Results: Construction Has an Image Problem
Percentage of Youth that Would Enter Construction for the Right Pay
Top Reasons Youth Won't Consider a Construction Career
Why is construction’s image the root of its problems? Because an industry that’s viewed as outdated and unwilling to change can’t attract the talent needed to perform in the modern marketplace. According to the BLS, only 6% of the 20-34 year old workforce is employed in construction.
Percentage of 20-34 Year Old Workforce Employed by Industry
Construction's failure to engage young, bright, and diverse talent at scale has been the main cause of the problems it faces today. Its rigid structures, rugged reputation, and old-school mindset don’t appeal to the majority of youth, and without them, construction has struggled to keep up with the productivity gains seen in every other industry.
The problem isn’t unique to the US either. The UK faces a major construction skills shortage, one that they wholly attribute to construction’s image problem among youth.
Public Perceptions of Construction in the UK
Transforming the Construction Industry's Reputation
The industry doesn’t deserve this bad rap. Today’s construction careers are lucrative, engaging, and rewarding, but that information isn’t widely publicized. The biggest task facing construction firms over the next several years is showing the public, and mainly the youth, that the industry is progressive, tech-friendly, and ready for a new generation of workers.
There’s a carrot and a stick when it comes to this task. Construction is predicted to see approximately $13 trillion in spending globally. If firms can successfully re-brand construction, boost their productivity, and eliminate the litany of issues plaguing the industry, they stand to make huge gains from increased innovation, productivity, and collaboration.
However, this multi-trillion dollar opportunity is common knowledge. And, if construction firms don’t tackle the source of the problem now, the market is going to do it for them.
Just like we have seen time and time again over the last decade, when industry powerhouses don’t change, they get swept away by innovative tech companies. Look at what happened to taxis with Uber, retail with Amazon, and real estate with Zillow.
The change is inevitable - the question is whether it will come from inside or outside the industry. Right now most construction firms are waiting for competitors to take the first step towards implementing new technologies in their business practices.
Construction is teetering on the edge of a massive shift, and with just a little push it will snowball into an avalanche of wealth.
To help nudge it along, we’ve published a 4-part series on transforming the image of construction:
We start by taking a look at the worst case scenario: what will happen if construction firms don’t adapt and change their image?
Construction firms are getting the hang of sharing, but they still aren’t collaborating. We identify the difference between the two, why it causes problems, and how tapping into the younger generations can help solve it.
The last two parts of this series switches focus to show the kind of resources construction needs to produce to start driving youth interest. We explain what a potential career in construction looks like, why it’s worth pursuing, and how to go about it.
Once the interest is there, people need to know how to take the first step. The final piece of the series focuses in on what to look for in a good construction job app, for both the company and the applicant.
The construction industry has a lot of work ahead of it, and also significant opportunity. Maintaining the status quo will unfortunately leave most firms to go the way of the taxi. However, with the right effort and direction, the current players stand to make a tremendous gain.
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