Tracking Infrastructure

How Precast is Addressing the Labor Shortage

Posted by Caitlyn Knezevic

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May 3, 2023 3:02:30 PM

The labor shortage across the United States is well known and affects multiple industries including construction manufacturing and the precast concrete industry. This shortage affects entire chains of companies needed to accomplish a single job, including engineering, materials fabrication, distribution, freight and construction. Ultimately, according to McKinsey & Company, “…there are too few workers for the jobs currently available, and certainly not enough for the jobs expected to be created in the years ahead.” 

So, how is the precast concrete industry addressing the labor shortage? And what other tactics can be leveraged? 

Why is there a shortage?

There are several reasons why there is a labor shortage of skilled workers. The pandemic was a large factor in the immediate decrease of workers, and now that we are on the other side, workers know what they want and plan to find places that align with their goals and needs. 

Below are a few reasons contributing to the labor shortage: 

Skilled workers aging out 

With more time in the concrete industry to develop their skills, the Baby Boomer generation make up the highest skilled workers a plant has. But, this generation, also known as the largest living adult population in the United States, is continuing to head off into retirement 

This impacts the labor shortage as it leaves workforces with large gaps that continue to widen as these workers retire. Mid-level employees are not developing their skills quick enough to replace the Baby Boomer generation, nor are there enough of them. This leaves plants looking for new employees who are already skilled but are not finding the needed skills in workers who are breaking into the industry. 

Re-evaluating workplace priorities 

Since the pandemic, workers have begun to reflect on their roles and values within the workplace. According to Gartner, “Many have developed a new sense of self-awareness and worth, and they won’t easily forget if they have felt undervalued.” 

This has contributed to the labor shortage in the concrete industry as workers expect better treatment at work regarding being seen as a person, not just a number. They want to feel like they matter and that the work they do is beneficial to themselves as well as the company. When employees do not feel appreciated, they begin to leave for other opportunities which give them this purpose. 

Positions in the precast concrete industry are dirty and include performing hard labor. These are two things that can be difficult to motivate people to do as a vast majority of people are not seeking these types of jobs. This is a consideration that concrete manufacturers need to keep in mind. 

Not enough trades promotion 

It has become more difficult to attract new generations to head into trades professions after years of heavy pressure towards achieving higher education. This has led to an imbalance of workers in the workforce. Because most of the next generation of potential tradespeople pursued higher education right out of high school, there are fewer people entering trades. 

The concrete industry and construction manufacturing are some of the groups struggling to find people who are pursuing the trades. Additionally, precast concrete is a lesser-known trade, making the pool of people interested and trained not as large as other trade pools. 

How to attract 

Idencia-LinkedInPoll-LaborShortage-2023To address the labor shortage, construction manufacturers need to make changes in how they conduct business and manage their employee training and retention. Based on the below suggestions, we surveyed the precast concrete industry on LinkedIn to see which of the options they thought was best.

As illustrated, improving work conditions is the number one pick followed by offering incentives. For those who voted other and provided comments with more details, there was an emphasis on how important all three of those options are. Another comment discussed the lack of awareness there is of the precast concrete industry and how more promotion should be done. 

Learn more about ways you can attract more employees for your plant: 

Modernize your plant 

With the current trend of skilled workers aging out of the workforce, manufacturers can expect the newer generations who are coming in to have a different mindset. Millennials and Generation Z are both tech savvy groups who adapt to technology easily and expect to be able to use technology to accomplish their jobs. If your plant is still using pen and paper for most of your processes and data collection, you will not appeal to these groups. There are some employees who may just want to get in, get their job done, and go home. The more tools you can provide that simplify their work tasks, the more likely it is you will attract and retain these workers. 

A tool such as Idencia, modernizes your plant to be able to collect, track, manage and analyze data on mobile devices and a web application. It also allows plant managers to create processes for workers to follow to be able to add structure and consistency to workflows. With a system in place that eases the burden of performing one’s job, it makes it easier for employees to work as well as save time on tasks so they can better focus on developing their skills. 

Provide the right training 

“Classroom options will continue to exist but precasters are encouraged to incorporate informal training, apprenticeship options, ongoing support, and/or coaching and online options as well. New technologies can play a critical role in training, especially with many online options available today.”  

— Alex Morales, M. Ed., Workforce Development: Training & Development

At Idencia, one of our own goals is focusing on employee training to help develop professional growth for everyone. In the precast concrete industry, there are always new tools, technology and best practices being developed and used in the industry. Encourage and plan for employees to attend learning opportunities to help benefit themselves and your business. It will help boost morale and help provide new excitement for employees. 

When reaching out for new applicants, being able to highlight continued training will help you stand apart from other plants who may not offer this growth for employees. 

Attract more diversity 

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are important to attract additional groups of people who you may not be appealing to now. By focusing on broadening the openness to other groups, it will be easier to attract more women and diverse groups of workers to want to work for you. 

The initiative to attract diverse groups to the concrete industry is an industry-wide initiative. It is important for the industry to band together and create a more diverse workforce. When people feel supported and represented, they will feel good about themselves, their jobs and perform at their best. 

Improve work environment 

Working in the precast concrete industry is not an easy or clean job by any means. Workers are surrounded by hazardous materials and shop environments which could lead to injury if safety precautions are not in place or if workers are not being mindful. 

Depending on where your plant is located geographically, work conditions in combination with the weather can lead to uncomfortable days for employees. While you cannot control the weather, employees notice when their managers are focusing on the quality of the work conditions. That could look like: 

  • Adopting a new tool that helps them get their job done faster and minimizes the length of time in poor environmental conditions 
  • Better organizing your plant and tool layouts so workers can be more efficient and not have to get bogged down by organizational problems 
  • Ensure your plant is up to code, all safety precautions have been taken and that all employees are full trained on tools and equipment 

Develop a healthy culture 

You want to attract employees who want to be there. How do you do that? Through developing a culture where employees feel represented and feel confident in how the business is performing. 

Stubbe’s does exactly this. Their focus is on creating a positive work environment where they are not looking for people to work just in the precast concrete industry, but to want to work for Stubbe’s. With the emphasis on culture, the word of mouth gets out attracting more people who want to work for the company. 

“Hire for culture, because the people who fit and appreciate your culture are going to stick around, but if people are chasing incentives, then they’re just going to stay until the next incentive pulls them away.” 

— Henk Van De Ridder, VP of Corporate Services, Stubbe’s

How to retain 

To address the labor shortage, it is important to put in place initiatives to attract workers. But do not let it stop there, you must carry through with these initiatives and allow them to shape the way you continue to manage your plant. 

For instance, Northern Design Precast puts their focus on developing a team atmosphere and having a strong core of experienced, hard-working employees. With this mindset as a company, their employees have better experiences coming in to do their jobs as they feel appreciated for what they do. 

Here are a few other things to keep in mind while navigating how to retain employees: 

Forward thinking 

Modernization should not stop at adding a few new tools to how you manage your locations. To retain the employees you have attracted, you must remain forward-thinking. Continue looking into software, tools and training that improves upon and modernizes the concrete industry.  

Easy onboarding 

Your plant should implement a straightforward onboarding process and processes in place for workers to do their jobs. With a technology tool like Idenica implemented, you can create easy-to-follow processes for workers, making it easy for new employees to get acquainted with the technology. With the quick time-to-success for new employees, they will feel confident in their skills at being valuable and productive at work. 

By providing this structure to how your business performs, it helps support inexperienced laborers to be successful.  

Support your workers 

When your employees feel good about themselves, their skills, and the future of your company, they stay. Security and appreciation are two tools any business can use to retain their workforce. The construction manufacturing industry will continue to benefit the more they lift their workforce up.

What should you do? 

We suggest you begin looking at your plant and answering some questions as suggested by PCI 

  1. Have I provided each of my employees with a clear description of duties/expectations for their position? 
  2. Does the salary square up with the responsibilities and level of experience the employee brings to the job? 
  3. Does the company value and encourage employee input and routinely ask for suggestions/ideas from employees to both improve the work environment and/or solve problems as they arise? 
  4. Does the company strive to create a team environment and work to build morale? 
  5. Are employees valued and included in the success of the company by way of salary increases/bonuses/time off etc?  

Next, you should survey your workforce to have a better understanding of the factors that keep them motivated and how you can better manage your plant. A well-organized plant and a happy team lead to higher retention. Additionally, employees who enjoy their job and feel appreciated by the company will recommend open positions to their networks.  

“We found that some of our best hires have come out of our incentive program for referrals. Anytime one of our workers brings someone they know in it ends up a great fit.” 

— Greg Stratis, President & Operations Manager, Shea Concrete Products, Amesbury

Lastly, Idencia can help you address the labor shortage through providing you with a tool that will modernize your plant and simplify workers’ tasks. Speak to one of our solution specialists to learn more.


About Idencia

The Idencia mission is to help construction product manufacturers achieve full potential by saving time and improving productivity with our data tracking system. We are pleased to serve over 90 precast plants in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. 


Topics: Market Insights

About this blog

Tracking Infrastructure is a blog about innovation in the manufacture, construction and management of infrastructure.

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