Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Workers vs Laborers at the Job Site

I'm always stopping at construction sites around my area. Three new million sq ft distribution facilities are going up along with four new housing developments and single family homes.


After the first couple stops I began noticing a trend. Few if any young people were actually doing work at the job sites. Most of the workers were men 35+ years old and the only woman I saw was in charge as a superintendent.


At each job site I asked the same questions.

“Do you have enough labor on this job?” If they didn’t have enough I asked “Why?”

“Where are the young workers I used to see on construction sites?”

As I compiled the answers I began to notice a pattern. First, most of the jobs needed a couple of extra workers but they were doing a good job without them simply because of the maturity of the existing workers on site. They picked up the slack without much prodding.

The young woman, a superintendent in her early 30’s, told me that she would rather work with men who knew their trade rather than having people her age on the job. When pressed as to why, she said she didn’t have to wonder if the job was being done correctly when the ‘older guys’ (her words) did the work.


At the shopping center site I bumped into a VP for the construction company. He was doing an inspection. I asked him my questions and got an interesting response.

He told me that finding laborers was easy but finding workers was hard. Put an ad in the newspaper or go to an agency and by Monday morning he had 20 new hires. By Wednesday he had 12 return, by Friday he had 8 of those quit. Most of the others stayed at least 90 day but usually only one of the original 20 stayed longer than a year. That was the one the company would then begin training for a skilled position.

The age of the ‘labor’ that showed up the first day varied from recent high school dropouts to older men and women that had hit hard times. Many couldn’t follow simple directions, some didn’t speak or understand English and others failed the drug test even before they could start working.

When I talked to two men on their lunch break about how they got started in construction and if they are planning on staying they both were happy to tell me.

Turns out they both went to the same high school 8 years apart. Both went to Vo-Tech and both took carpentry from the same teacher. Both liked their jobs and they have been getting steady increases in pay to keep them working for the company.

They jokingly told me there is a steady stream of young kids that quit once they realize that hard work and texting all day don’t go together very well.

It would seem there is no labor shortage as plenty of people are available but finding a ‘worker’ is getting tougher to find.

The elimination of Vo-Tech and lack of skills training after high school or college has more to do with the ‘labor’ shortage than simply saying “Millennials don’t want to work.” They want to work but simply haven’t been properly prepared for it.


Gary Fleisher, the Original Modcoach, owns the Modcoach Network consisting of Modcoach News, Modular Home Coach and Modcoach Connects.

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