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How Mobile Forms Can Help Combat the Construction Labor Shortage

September 20, 2018

The good news: The current demand for new homes, buildings, and facilities in the United States is higher than it’s been in years, and the construction industry is booming.

“For better or worse, business is good for us,” Goliath Construction Consulting founder Tyson Conrad told U.S. News and World Report. “They’re beating down the door.”

The bad news? There aren’t enough skilled workers to keep up with demand.

According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 8 out of every 10 firms are struggling to find enough skilled labor. And they expect hiring over the next 12 months to be just as difficult, if not worse.

The labor shortage is affecting the whole country, but is most noticeable in places like Hot Springs, AZ, where there are four construction jobs available for every one qualified applicant, according to ZipRecruiter data. And it spans all trades within the industry, from pipelayers to sheet metal workers to concrete workers to carpenters.

“We’re in a place now where you have a booming economy and booming construction industry and lack of manpower,” Conrad said.

A Shortage of Skilled Laborers

Several factors are contributing to the current shortage.

After the Great Recession, lots of people who were working or considering a job in construction turned to more stable industries that aren’t as susceptible to booms and busts. And over the last several years, many Baby Boomer contractors have reached retirement age and there aren’t enough replacements.

Some industry veterans are concerned that fewer young people are embracing construction as a career choice, blaming budget cuts to shop and other skill-development classes in high schools. And the young people who are entering the industry are simply lacking experience and, as a result, don’t work as fast.

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“They don’t have the same productivity as that 15- to 20-year (worker),” Steve Malaney of Oregon-based P&C Construction told the Tampa Bay Times. “We are finding that our subcontractors are having to decrease production.”

Crackdowns on undocumented workers and controls on legal immigration may also be contributing. A recent analysis found that immigrants constitute roughly 30 percent of the construction industry (more than 40 percent in California and Texas).

All things considered, the shortage is not expected to resolve itself anytime soon.

Bridging the Construction Labor Gap

One of the ways construction companies are responding to the shortage is by beefing up their recruitment and training efforts.

“The industry has no problem finding people,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. “But many of those people don’t have construction experience. So companies have had to spend much more on training to bring people up to speed.”

“We’re very strategic,” said Rich Jacobson of Kraus Anderson Construction. “We plan ahead and try not to ‘over-promise’ clients by taking on more work than we can handle.”

But taking on less work, of course, means bringing in less revenue – so many contractors are investing in technology such as drones, 3D printers, and computer modeling to bridge the labor gap.

One of the quickest and easiest technology solutions to adopt is a mobile forms app for inspections, reports, estimates, and checklists.

Paperwork slows everything down: Lost forms, illegible handwriting, and data entry errors are just a part of problem. Even when things go smoothly, getting information from the field back to the office can take hours or even days.

Mobile forms speed up your processes by sharing information from job sites instantly, which reduces time spent waiting for materials, changes, and approvals. They also help you to standardize your processes so you get the same quality data whether it’s coming from a 20-year veteran or a new hire.

Plus: Mobile forms apps like Fulcrum deliver a nearly immediate return on investment (ROI) with the time and resources they save!

Want to see examples of mobile forms that construction companies are using to improve their workers’ productivity? Check out our gallery of Construction apps!

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Fulcrum is a data collection platform that enables businesses to reduce costs, access critical data in real time, and improve decision making at every level. With Fulcrum, you can create custom apps using our simple drag-and-drop builder to turn your paper documents into digital forms that your field teams can quickly complete on mobile devices.