Why a workforce shortage: Americans need more information

Written with the assistance of the National Asphalt Pavement Association Graphics courtesy of the National Asphalt Pavement Association

In 2019, NAPA Chairman John Harper made Workforce Development a strategic goal for the Association. Under Harper’s leadership, NAPA’s Workforce Development Committee began efforts to address workforce shortages across three critical areas in the road construction industry—effective communications, partnerships, and helping the industry deliver on the promise it makes to employees. In February 2020, after many months of market research and analysis, NAPA released Special Report 227. This report provides data detailing the publics’ and educators’ perceptions of the road construction industry and helps to substantiate the workforce shortage and investigated reasons why the road construction industry has trouble attracting new, young employees. This article and those to follow in the coming months will highlight findings from the NAPA report. VAA would like to thank NAPA for their assistance with these articles.

People form opinions on topics through information and, many times, misinformation. One key finding from the market research that was led by Golin Media’s GoIINTEL Research Hub in Washington, D.C., was a lack of knowledgeable information among many Americans. Through a series of surveys and focus groups, it was clear the public and educators knew less about road construction than they did about manufacturing, vertical construction, transportation (e.g., trucking, ride-sharing, taxi, etc.), and agriculture. Except for mining, those surveyed claimed little knowledge about road construction as it compared to related industries with similar labor profiles. Also, people had a negative perception of road construction (See Figure 3). Clearly, the road construction industry has done a poor job with public relations. But with time and effort, this can be addressed.

Fortunately, with a little effort based on research findings from the initial survey and focus groups, respondents were able to be educated with key messages, and their change in viewpoint reflected that education. Instead of being an industry where the public and educators would not recommend road construction as a career path, these same groups would recommend or even consider construction as a career path.

In our next article, Asphalt News will delve into the perceptions of the road construction industry.