Why a workforce shortage: Road construction – is perception reality?

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

Often our thoughts are shaped by what we see, read, or hear. But, ponder these questions: Is what you see the complete picture? Is what you read the whole story? Is what you hear all there is to be told? In almost every instance, the answer to these questions is—“no.” But without more information, a person forms a perception that then becomes their reality. Based on research conducted by GolINTEL, a specialty group for NAPA’s consultant Golin, the general public and educator’s understanding or perception of road construction only paints a limited picture.

In an initial survey conducted by GolINTEL, the general public and educators see road construction as dirty, labor-intensive, and dangerous. But the same survey did recognize the thousands of Americans employed by the industry. While these overall negative responses should come as no surprise, they do point out the lack of knowledge and information readily available to the general public. For the most part, people see what is readily visible—work crews along a highway. They are unaware of the other areas of the industry, as well as the career and financial growth opportunities.

GolINTEL used the results from the initial survey to generate accurate descriptions of the road construction industry, which many in the industry already knew. However, without conveying these descriptions to the general public, educators, and a potential workforce, how are they supposed to know? So, GolINTEL shared these descriptions with focus groups, and the impacts were measured in a follow-up survey. Messages such as skills-based career, growth and opportunity, salary and financial security, and diversity and equal pay all resonated with the focus groups. The perception of road construction drastically changed, especially with educators. While some aspects of the industry are difficult and dangerous, the positive aspects of the industry changed mindsets.

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