In many parts of the country, it’s almost impossible to find enough qualified people to fill positions on bridge maintenance and construction projects. Record-low unemployment rates and a skills gap have made it a big challenge for businesses in bridge-related industries.
One way to remedy this is to recruit more Millennials and younger people. In most places, bridge workers skew older, and attracting even a small percentage of the large younger talent pool will make a BIG difference when it comes to staffing projects.
Did you know: According to a study reported in Startus Magazine online, experts predict that by 2020, Millennials will make up more than a third of the global workforce? Younger Gen Zers will contribute almost a quarter. That means the two groups will comprise more than half of the world’s workforce.
In this article, we’ll explore what you can do to become an employer of choice for Millennials and other younger talent.
What makes Millennials different
Technology plays a big role in everyone’s life. Older workers have adopted it over time. Younger people have grown up using it to solve most of the problems and issues they encounter every day of their lives.
Bridge construction is generally thought of as a lagging industry when it come to adopting new technology. Imagine the disconnect when a young person arrives at a job site and finds a low-tech world that uses antiquated manual and mechanical processes. It’s likely not a place they’ll want to work over the long term.
This has to change if contractors and other bridge-related employers want to get more Millennials to work for them.
Common and emerging technologies that Millennials are comfortable using and that can be leveraged on bridge worksites include:
- Artificial intelligence helps improve decision making on projects, especially in crisis situations. It can also improve design, increase safety, and help prevent accidents.
- Augmented and virtual reality allows architects, engineers, and others to explore options quickly and easily so they can identify the best solutions to their design challenges.
- Smartphone apps make it easy for people on job sites to communicate without meeting in person. They can also help with logging completed work, posting warnings, identifying issues, keeping records, sending alerts, tracking tasks, and much more, without having to find computers or using pen and paper.
- Drones make it possible to view hard-to-reach areas of bridges to identify issues. This is particularly important during the current infrastructure crisis, when many bridges have hidden structural problems that could be threats to public safety. Once a drone identifies an issue, advanced platforms and other bridge access devices make it safe and easy for humans to reach them to conduct more detailed inspections and fix problems.
- Tablets are an invaluable way to view plans, schedules, training videos, instructions, and more at any place, any time. They can be a huge time saver on job sites.
- Wearables make it easier to track activity, monitor time, and manage security on job sites. Almost more than any other type of device, they help eliminate pesky manual processes and procedures Millennials hate doing.
Tip: An added benefit of using more technology on bridge job sites is that it’s proven to increase productivity, efficiency, and safety for ALL workers, not just Millennials.
Bridging the generation gap
Clearly, it’s a smart idea to implement new technology solutions on bridge job sites.
However, doing so can create gaps between seasoned construction workers and Millennials. Older, experienced people are used to doing things “their way” and may be resistant to change. Younger, more tech-savvy people have little use for antiquated work methods.
There are three proven ways to introduce new technologies on bridge job sites that are effective for both parties:
- Divide up work so people are assigned tasks aligned with their experience, interests, and skill levels. This is a divide-and-conquer approach that makes the most of people’s current knowledge, talent, and abilities.
- Develop flexible training programs that can be tailored to meet the needs of tech-savvy people and those who need more time to learn how to use new technology solutions. This helps everyone understand new things at their own pace, which helps avoid frustration.
- Pair up tech-savvy younger people with workers who are experts in more traditional work methods. Each will benefit from the other’s experience and learn from them. This is a great way to build camaraderie on job sites.
Tip: If you offer training to the people who work for you and they’re still resistant to adopting new technologies and work methods, it’s probably time to face facts and let them go. They’ll likely be more successful and happier working with employers who aren’t as advanced and forward thinking.
There are advantages to increasing the technology used on work sites beyond attracting a younger workforce:
- Greater efficiency and productivity.
- Increased safety.
- A more engaged workforce.
- Improved communication.
- Better record keeping.
- Enhanced information flow.
- Ability to market yourself as a forward-focused company.
The combination of these benefits, coupled with the ability to attract and hire younger, tech-savvy workers, will quickly pay off to your company’s bottom line.