How to Overcome the Construction Labor Shortage: Hire More Women
Construction is an industry historically dominated by men. But with more individuals retiring and a skilled labor shortage threatening its growth, there is plenty of room at the proverbial table for women to contribute in more meaningful ways.
“Women are an untapped resource for the construction marketplace,” says Allison Scott, head of integrated marketing for Autodesk’s Construction Business Line. “With contractors losing work each day because of a shortage of labor, there’s a place in the industry for young women with a passion for STEM, stay-at-home moms returning to the workforce and people who want part-time work. This is the time for women seeking to earn a living in the building industry to get in the game.”
Scott, who is an adviser for the documentary Hard Hatted Woman and has previously worked for Skanska, Winter Street Architects and Kurzweil Technologies, believes the industry is at an “interesting tipping point” where “women can really make an impact.”
“We need more diversity in the industry because with richer diversity comes new ideas and innovation,” she says. “We are ready to reach that inflection point where women are respected, desired and supported. Unfortunately, not unlike many other legacy industries, there are still major hurdles.”
Skilled Trade Shortage
Scott is a strong advocate for skilled trades and those in the field. She sees a built environment ecosystem that’s not only made up of architects, engineers and construction management teams, but also includes the people who work hands-on and make each building come to life.
“You’ve got people who are putting up drywall, installing pipes, using a welding torch, installing HVAC equipment and running wires,” says Scott. “They are just as much a part of our industry as those in the back office.”
With fewer high school students expressing interest in skilled work, however, their ranks are dwindling. Build A Life MA is among the organizations that are working to change that by promoting the benefits for women who start a career in the building trades.
“Many trades programs will pay for training and apprenticeship,” she says. “If you’re not ready or don’t want to go to a four-year college, you can still learn important skills and get paid from day one. There aren’t a lot of opportunities like that.”
Promoting the legacy of the trades is not enough, however, and Scott thinks it lacks the “cool factor” achieved by industries that are perceived to be more modern and more high-tech.
“What I see ahead for the industry is a hybrid approach where those in the field can train in their craft, as well as the emerging technology that help make their work efficient, of the highest quality and safe,” she says, adding that she's optimistic about the advanced robotics, autonomous machinery and cloud-based construction software coming into the space. “These new technologies and processes can help attract and retain new construction workers. Yes, some of the ways we work may change, but I think we only have room to improve and new jobs will be created that we can’t even conceptualize yet.”
Her Own Path
Scott recently joined Autodesk after a seven-year run at Skanska, where she most recently served as the director of innovation market strategy. She speaks fondly of her time at the company, which allowed her to “promote and advocate for innovation and technology” within the construction industry.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” she says. “I realized part of my next growth was an opportunity not just to focus on one company, but what could I do for the industry as a whole?”
Autodesk has provided a path for her to achieve that goal.
“Autodesk recognizes that construction is the next great frontier and that it will take a workforce of inspired men and women to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” says Scott. “I’ve come on board to support Autodesk’s efforts in construction, and to continue to promote a more powerful, resilient workforce.”
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