Why a workforce shortage: In seeking tomorrow’s workforce start with today’s educators

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

Despite a dependable, yet aging workforce, many companies face a shortage of workers. Compounding the issue is the reality of a looming glut of retirements and an accelerating requirement that the road construction industry do more in less time. Technology in the office, at the plant, and behind the paver creates a challenge to adjust and in some cases a reluctance by an older workforce to embrace a new way of working. Fortunately, Generation Z—tomorrow’s workforce, has grown up in the technological age. Using technology, i.e., computers, tablets, mobile devices, is a standard way of life. So, how do you attract tomorrow’s workforce? You start with today’s educators.

According to the website educationdata.org, nearly 56.6 million children and youth attended elementary and secondary schools in the United States during the 2019 school year. Other than parents, educators have the most contact with tomorrow’s workforce. In many instances, teachers spend more time with children than any other group during a normal week.

Based on research conducted by GolINTEL, the research group at NAPA consultant Golin, educators, along with parents, play a pivotal role in tomorrow’s workforce. In some instances, the parents can be an obstacle and not a proponent for the road construction industry. Many parents consider themselves “gatekeepers” for their children and want them to attend college and pursue white-collar jobs. On the other hand, educators tend to provide a more balanced perspective on various career opportunities.

A challenge for the road construction industry is supporting teachers in a demanding educational environment. Teachers have core curriculums to follow and must prepare students for standardized tests. The time and effort to research various career opportunities is minimal. Therefore, industry needs to provide employees and spokespeople to assist teachers. Assistance can come in the form of participating in career days, hosting field trips, and making presentations to individual classrooms, to name a few. As one Denver educator stated in Special Report 227:

“When you’re in high school, the colleges come by the school. They come, they work the school, they call us, they set appointments, and they want to come two or three times a year. The industries, for the most part, don’t.”

Want to seek tomorrow’s workforce, start with your local schools today. While the current pandemic may restrict access, use this time to develop a plan, create informational material and hone presentations on why road construction can be an outstanding career. Develop a video about your company and let the local educators use it in their online or remote learning classes.

To learn more about NAPA’s Workforce Development Findings, read Special Report 227 on asphaltpavement.org.