It is no secret that there’s a labor shortage in our industry, the jobs numbers released last week show employers scrambling to fill positions. Publications in our industry have been bemoaning this fact for the better part of a decade, since home construction bottomed out in 2011. And while there are many great ideas on how to address the issue: incentivizing young people to enter the industry with new technologies and higher wages, re-establishing trade schools as an alternative to college, and keeping experienced contractors from aging out of the workforce, we have yet to start to turn the tide. This week we’re going to discuss this issue a little more in depth, and talk about how technology may be the answer at all levels of the issue.
LONG AND SHORT OF THE SHORTAGE
There are many factors that precipitated the situation we’re in now. The contraction of the home-building market after the Great Recession sent many skilled laborers looking for other employment. An emphasis on college over trade schools has kept many young people from exploring the industry. Some employers also see an issue with opioids and other drug use disqualifying many candidates. Addressing these issues is an undertaking that the entire industry needs to pitch in on. Getting into career fairs and partnering with schools to talk to candidates before they make their post-high school decisions is a start. Making the industry attractive to young people through the integration of technology and adapting to new work-cultures is another important step.
AGE IN THE INDUSTRY
Besides being able to recruit new talent into the industry, we also have a problem with losing the talent we already have. The average age in the roofing industry in 2016 was 37.2 years of age and it has not been trending down. Even as many of the older souls move into less physically intensive positions in their companies, much of the basic work of contracting is hard on the body. Making sure these talented individuals don’t injure themselves needlessly, or get to the point where they cannot continue working is something that technology can address as well.
HOW TECH CAN HELP
This may be a situation where to a hammer, everything looks like a nail, but we believe greater adoption of technology in the roofing industry can solve most of our labor issues. Besides our own software, there are many solutions in the industry that address the pain points that keep young people out. Mounds of paperwork, terrible lead tracking, problems paying out commissions, all can be addressed with CRMs. RoofSnap uses aerial imagery and intuitive, CAD-like draw tools that many millennials are familiar with to speed up the estimation and sales process. We also keep your sales team off of the roof, allowing older estimators to stay in the industry longer. While tech can’t hire talent for you (well, iHireConstruction.com may beg to differ) it can make your company one that attracts and retains skilled employees of all ages, and in our current climate that is a key to success.
Again, the labor shortage we’re experiencing is something we’ll need to address as an industry. Sharing solutions like Reliant Roofing’s training programs down in Florida is a great start. Exploring different technologies is a must as well. There’s healthy competition in the Roofing Industry and in the technology sector as well, but making sure that we can all play makes the game more fun.