Bridging the Gap Between the Construction Spending Boom and Labor Shortages

Bridging the Gap Between the Construction Spending Boom and Labor Shortages

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr | Social Media & Digital Strategy Manager

According to the January 3, 2020, release from the U.S. Census Bureau, construction spending for last year was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,324.1 billion. During the first two months of 2018, construction spending increased 4.4 percent from the same time period in 2017. This news would be much more exciting if industry-wide labor shortages weren’t continuing to hinder contractors’ abilities to take on more jobs.  

We recently caught up with Missy and Trevor Scherber, owners of T. Scherber Demolition & Excavating, to talk about these industry trends and how they’re bridging the gap between the the construction spending boom and shortage of skilled workers. Two primary solutions surfaced: rethinking recruitment strategies and leveraging new machine technology.

Bring Your Recruitment A Game

As many of the skilled machine operators from the Baby Boomer generation are beginning to retire, Missy and Trevor have focused recruitment efforts on a younger generation of operators. The key is getting young recruits excited about entering the construction industry and investing in their training.

“Many millennials are wary of entering the construction field because they witnessed the market crash ten years ago,” explained Missy Scherber. “However, the industry is booming now and there is success to be made—creating an opportunity to restore excitement about this fulfilling career path among younger generations.”

Here are some recruitment methods that have worked well for the Scherbers:

Get social

Leverage social media to connect with individuals who are interested in entering the industry, as well as showcase your company’s work environment and fulfilling projects. 

Use social media in your construction business Use social media in your construction business

Get involved

Giving back to the community where you operate your business is not only fulfilling, but also provides more exposure to potential recruits and even clients. 

Give back to your community Give back to your community

Reach out to vocational schools

Find opportunities to meet with students in technical programs, such as speaking to a class, participating in career days or inviting a group to visit one of your jobsites.

Reach out to vocational schools Reach out to vocational schools

Offer training

Demonstrate that you are invested in professional development. Partner with equipment manufacturers who offer comprehensive training programs in which your new recruits can participate. 

Offer training to your construction crew. Offer training to your construction crew.

Hire veterans

Check in with your regional VA office. It’s a good place to find hard workers and fast learners who are transitioning to civilian life. Additionally, many veterans already have experience in military machine operation, making them more comfortable and adaptable to construction machines. 

Hire veterans Hire veterans

Machine Technology Is Your Friend, Not the Enemy

Machine technology perceptions vary widely within the industry. Many operators view it as an insult to their skill set, or worse, a mechanism to put them out of a job. In reality, it’s quite the opposite.

“Machine technology serves as an extension of an operator’s skill set,” said Trevor Scherber. “It also makes a huge impact on project efficiency, workload capacity and how quickly we are able to train new crew members.”

The proof is in the pudding. Let’s take a look at how T. Scherber Demolition & Excavating has benefited from utilizing the latest grading technology:

  • Helps prevent common, sometimes costly, mistakes that occur in their line of work, such as over-digging. 
  • Eliminates the need for laying stakes and manually checking grade accuracy—significantly reducing operator fatigue and the time it takes to complete the project. 
  • Cuts new operator training time in half. The latest machine technology is designed to make machine operation more intuitive and reduce room for error. Additionally, younger generation operators tend to embrace technology utilization and view it as a marketable skill set.

The labor shortage struggle is real. But fortunately, there are ways to combat those challenges and still get your slice of the 2018 construction boom pie. For more information on Caterpillar’s operator training programs and machine technology offerings, visit Cat.com or contact your local Cat® dealer.


On The Level: Construction

On The Level: Construction

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr

Social Media & Digital Strategy Manager

Caitlin Maddock-Bahr exercises her storytelling expertise as a social media & digital strategy manager. In this role, she not only helps Caterpillar connect with their audience, but helps customers connect with the brand.