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By Greg Chodora

It’s time to recruit the next generation of construction workers

November 1, 2020


  • A lack of interest from young people should be a concern for the construction industry because many construction workers are retiring with no one to take their place.
  • Offering competitive salaries alone will not help attract younger workers; employers must do more to keep an edge in this tightening labor market.
  • Promoting mentorships and technology can help construction companies reach out to younger workers.

a man and a woman wearing safety vests and hard hats working on a construction site

There was once a time when a job in construction was among the top career choices for young people. That’s no longer the case. While the construction industry continues to grow, it’s important to develop a robust marketing campaign to attract the next generation of qualified workers who may not know about the opportunities that exist in an ever-evolving industry. A lack of interest from young people in construction careers is a trend worth monitoring because many construction workers are retiring with no one to take their place. And the labor market is only getting tighter.1

Contractors in particular are having difficulty finding enough people to complete their work. The labor shortage has created a ripple effect as contractors are having problems meeting deadlines, containing costs and even taking on new projects. In fact, the labor market is so tight for the construction industry that, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, 82% of construction companies expect it to be difficult to fill positions for the foreseeable future.2 This is especially true when it comes to craft construction, as 80% of firms are struggling to find skilled tradespeople.3

With these factors in mind, the path forward is clear: Construction companies must do more to effectively recruit younger workers. Luckily, younger generations aren’t out of reach – employers just need to understand what motivates them.

Understanding the audience

Younger workers – think millennials and Gen Zers – want to find meaningful work that will enrich their lives, not just pay their bills. According to a recent study, 74% of younger employees want to feel that their work matters. If construction companies want to recruit these individuals (who will comprise the majority of the labor force by 2025), they must appeal to their interests.

This means tailoring recruitment techniques and outreach strategies to include incentives that the next generation actually wants. Offering competitive salaries alone will not help attract younger workers; employers must do more to keep an edge in this tightening labor market. One of those tactics should be showing younger workers how they fit into the construction industry.

Getting a foot in the door with mentorships

It’s difficult for young people to understand what a typical construction job looks like if they’ve never been to a site. And if they don’t understand the career, they may not pursue it. That’s why mentorships and internships are critical for long-term recruitment.

The local community is a good source for youth training and recruitment opportunities. National programs such as Build Your FutureACE Mentor Programs and YouthBuild USA are excellent for filling recruitment pipelines with young people entering their careers. There are other options, too2: Local high schools and community colleges can be great partners for matching students with mentorships. They also host career fairs, which allow companies to pitch their employment opportunities.

Some younger people may find it appealing that they can begin construction work out of high school, since it’s an industry in which one can build a career without a four-year college degree. Those interested in a four-year degree and a career in construction can use apprenticeships and internships to become familiar with what construction work is like. This includes learning about career paths that don’t necessarily include hard labor.5

Emphasizing what matters to younger workers

Introducing young people to the construction industry early – at career fairs, through mentorships or otherwise – can help them understand that it’s a rewarding field worth pursuing. When working with younger generations, relating back to their interests can help make your message relevant. Discuss the possibility that their idea of the industry is probably far from the actual truth. Here are some parallels between what younger workers want and what the construction industry can offer6:

    • Young people, while hardworking and determined, may be concerned about the long-term impact of physically demanding jobs. Many important construction roles aren’t labor-intensive.
    • Young people want workplace flexibility. Flexible work hours and ample time off are becoming industry standards, as well as the availability of floating or part-time positions.
    • Young people want a safe place to work. The construction industry is getting safer each year, thanks to innovative gear and higher workplace standards.

These are only some of the connections between what younger generations want and what the construction industry can offer. Another interest to play up when talking to young people is technology.

Using technology as an incentive

Young people are tech-savvy. They grew up surrounded by world-changing technology and have never known a life without it. It’s unsurprising, then, that they don’t just want innovative technology in their jobs – they demand it. This doesn’t mean construction companies need to invest in the latest tech craze, but it does illustrate how using outdated technology makes businesses less attractive to younger workers.

The construction industry actually has some of the most impressive technology available – the trick is making it appeal to younger workers. Consider leaning into the tech angle when speaking to young people. Talk about the high-tech capabilities of your organization, and explain how they’d use it in their day-to-day responsibilities.

Growing together through advancement

Career advancement is another critical incentive for younger workers. They want to know that their careers aren’t tied to a single role forever. This is where on-site training and clearly defined career paths come into play. If the next generation knows that they can train for more specialized roles, it increases the chances they’ll stick around in the industry.

Having a variety of opportunities available also helps you shuffle personnel around as needed. This option is attractive for younger workers who may still be figuring out what they want to do within the construction industry.

Focusing on diversity7

There’s also an opportunity to consider how increasing diversity in construction can increase the pool of available talent. For example, women have historically had low representation in the construction workforce. Of the millions employed in construction, women represent only 9%, and that includes administrative and office positions. Looking at trade positions, women make up less than 4%.

Increasing diversity not only demonstrates to younger generations that the company is inclusive, it also can help the industry grow the pool of available skill workers.

Putting it all together

Younger workers aren’t all the same, but there are some commonalities that can help businesses appeal to their general interests. Offering mentorships, connecting to their interests, using technology to show a commitment to innovation, and providing career training and advancement are all ways that construction companies can reach out to younger workers.

Keep these strategies in mind next time a young person asks about the construction field. Chances are the industry is already offering what they’re looking for, and this is the perfect time to help them see it.



  1. Mentorships and internships are critical for long-term recruitment.
  2. Introducing young people to the construction industry early can help them understand that it’s a rewarding field worth pursuing.
  3. If younger workers know that they can train for more specialized roles and won’t be tied to a single role forever, it increases the chances they’ll stick around in the industry.


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