Succeeding Despite Hardscape Industry Labor Shortage

May 16, 2018

It’s no secret that job openings in the construction industry continue to increase. According to NAHB reports, the twelve-month job opening average is currently at a post-recession high. For the concrete paver segment in particular, the 2018 ICPI Contractor Industry Report noted that four out of five contractors report difficulty in recruiting and hiring quality employees.

 

Yet despite these skilled labor shortages, the ICPI report also states that gross sales for concrete paver contractors in the U.S. and Canada increased by 7.7% during 2017. Thus, meeting the increased demand for residential and commercial hardscapes with a shortage of skilled labor continues to be a significant challenge for the industry.

 

Belgard’s Proactive Approach to Skilled Labor Shortages

Belgard has taken the position that education is the key to properly addressing skilled labor shortages, both through its extensive hardscape contractor training programs and in reaching out to younger generations.

 

“Part of our goal moving forward is to make better connections with national and regional organizations, trade schools and high schools to try and promote the idea that there are career opportunities in this business, whether that means working for someone or starting your own company,” said Joe Raboine, Belgard Residential Business Manager and training specialist.

 

Raboine believes attracting the younger generation should focus on the benefits of owning your own business, such as being your own boss, flexible work schedules, and the ability to earn a living while expressing creativity. He also stresses the importance of developing training opportunities for people of all skill levels.

 

In addition to working closely with the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) regarding various continuing education and certification programs, Belgard also supports ICPI’s new Workforce Development program, which is currently creating education curricula for high schools and trade schools.

 

Another major Belgard initiative moving forward is the current development of new contractor training programs to address every aspect of the hardscapes industry, which will be available soon through both webinars and hands-on classes. Course topics will include sales, marketing, product knowledge, industry trends, installation techniques and maintenance.

 

Learning from the Success of Others

One of the easiest ways to succeed in any industry is to follow the examples provided by the successful business owners who have blazed a trail ahead of you. Landscape and hardscape contractors who are successfully navigating the skilled labor shortage do so in a variety of creative ways.

 

“You’ll see some of the more established companies try to offer things like profit sharing or try to incentivize workers somehow,” Raboine said.

 

Ideas for incentives can include bonuses as well as non-monetary incentives, such as providing lunch for employees or extra holiday time. “Showing employees that you truly care for their wellbeing can boost morale and go a long way in creating employee loyalty,” Raboine said.

 

Belgard Master Craftsman Roger Van Alst of Black Diamond Paver Stones & Landscape, Inc. believes that it’s also important to create operational systems, which provide a structured professional work environment. He also notes that the key to finding good people is through good people you already know and trust.

 

“The most reliable resources for finding new workers are referrals from competent members of your crew,” Van Alst said, “but be prepared to advertise opportunities regularly. Recruitment should be a constant ongoing activity.”

 

Van Alst also believes that having an ongoing in-house training program is extremely important, not only to train new hires but to keep the entire team up-to-date on the latest installation techniques and product innovations. “I highly suggest taking advantage of the programs that Belgard has to offer to help stretch your training dollars,” he said.

 

Raboine also suggests helping employees gain industry installation certifications through ICPI courses, NCMA courses and Belgard University events. “Many companies have told me over the years that it’s important employees feel you care enough to invest in them,” he said.