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Staying Young: Millennial and Gen Z workers in construction

By Tom O'Connor | Feb 15, 2024
people using technology
The construction industry and the electrical field are dominated by an older workforce. 

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The construction industry and the electrical field are dominated by an older workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median age of a construction worker is 42.4. However, a significant shift is occurring with millennial and Gen Z workers entering the trades. These young people offer fresh perspectives, technological expertise and a desire for meaningful work. This new wave of youth comes with many advantages as well as some significant challenges.

Those born between 1981 and 1996 are millennials. Gen Z encompasses those born between 1997 and 2012. These groups have some unique characteristics that differentiate them from earlier generations. Most millennials and Gen Z members grew up in the digital age, which makes them extremely tech-savvy and able to embrace new technologies. They value work-life balance, flexibility and a sense of purpose in their careers. As a result, when selecting a career, they prioritize job satisfaction and personal growth. 

Millennials and Gen Z workers often seek out employers that align with their values and look for opportunities to have a positive effect on society. According to Deloitte’s “2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey,” 70% of millennials believe a sense of purpose is a driving factor in their career choices. This makes the construction industry an appealing profession to younger workers because of the potential to create tangible change and lasting effects on communities.

Barriers to younger generations

Unfortunately, millennial and Gen Z workers face challenges to entering the construction and electrical industries. These fields are complex and can be hazardous. Each requires specialized skills, safety training and expertise. To attract and integrate younger workers, employers need to invest in training and mentorship programs to attempt to bridge this knowledge gap.

Despite construction being a field where teens can have their first jobs, the industry has faced challenges embracing younger workers. Workers under the age of 25 make up only 9% of the workforce. However, the BLS estimates that between now and 2026, the construction industry will see major growth and as many as 747,600 new jobs. This may wreak havoc on an industry already struggling to find skilled labor to keep up with growth.

Another challenge may be the perception of the “blue-collar” construction industry. Stereotypes and misconceptions about the profession have resulted in some difficulty attracting younger talent. Employers and the industry should focus on promoting their positive attributes, including innovation, sustainability and career advancement opportunities.

According to the BLS, “from 2019 to 2029, the bulk of millennials will shift into the 35- to 44-year-olds group. The BLS projects that age group’s labor force size to increase by nearly 4.5 million over the decade, which is the largest gain for a single age group. The 45– to 54-year-old labor force age group, which will add the first wave of millennials during the decade, is also projected to increase. All of the other groups (ages 16–to–24, 25–to–34, and 55–to–64) are expected to have decreases in labor force size.”

Changes to the industry

To attract and retain millennial and Gen Z workers, employers must shift their recruitment strategies and workplace culture. The ability to offer flexible work arrangements, opportunities for professional development and a positive, inclusive work environment is essential. Embracing technology, offering mentorship programs and providing ongoing training can also go a long way.

Millennial and Gen Z workers entering the workforce are transforming the construction and electrical industries. Their technological proficiency with site safety management software, risk assessment tools and mobile applications to improve awareness has accelerated the adoption of digital tools and construction software, improving efficiency and productivity on job sites. 

These workers also bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas, helping to propel the industry forward and challenge traditional methods across the board.

Young professionals frequently place an emphasis on sustainability. This environmental consciousness is reshaping construction practices and driving the demand for green building materials and renewable energy solutions. According to the Deloitte survey, these generations “see a critical role for employers to provide the necessary skills training to prepare the workforce for the transition to a low-carbon economy.” 

As sustainability becomes a greater priority, the industry must adapt to meet these demands and attract environmentally conscious talent. Employers will have to be open-minded to attract, hire and retain younger workers.

 

stock.adobe.com / Siberian Art

About The Author

O’CONNOR is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm. Reach him at [email protected].

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