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Ramp Up Your Construction Company’s Training Program

9/11/20 – Natalie Thompson

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In this challenging economic environment, construction companies may be looking for ways to cut costs. Training programs are, in many cases, on the chopping block because they do not directly generate revenue. But as counterintuitive as it may sound, more training — not less — may be what your business needs right now. Consider the following four reasons why training remains critical.

1. The Skilled Labor Shortage is Still Here

The lack of skilled construction workers already was a problem before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, the construction industry had about 434,000 job vacancies, according to the U.S. Labor Bureau. At the same time, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found that 80% of contractors were having difficulty hiring skilled workers.

Now that the virus has spread to almost every corner of the United States, the situation has been exacerbated. Many construction companies are not in a financial position to hire skilled workers — even if they do happen to be available.

If you stop recruiting efforts and halt apprenticeship programs, the flow of quality workers will slow down to a trickle. Therefore, training new hires for skilled positions and retraining current workers must be a priority.

2. It's a Morale Booster

Naturally, most workers are anxious and feel family, financial and other pressures during the current public health crisis. Along with safety protocols, training that is targeted to specific jobs at work sites can help send a powerful message that you are interested in your employees' well-being and professional development and value them as team members. This will help inspire pride in their work and loyalty to your business — not to mention boost your company's reputation.

3. Strategic Planning Is More Important Than Ever

Emergencies sometimes require construction companies to focus on "putting out fires" rather than build for a stronger future. You may have been doing this recently as supply chains are interrupted and start dates are delayed. But sooner or later, operating on the fly generally catches up with contractors. For this reason, strive to return to normal — including strategic planning — as soon as feasible.

Training workers is one of those strategic decisions, and you have probably invested in workforce development programs in the past. To maintain the benefits of such investments, make sure you are "upskilling" employees on the latest equipment, techniques, and materials that apply to your construction company's specialty.

4. A Long-Term Approach is Best

If you intend to be in business for many years, possibly decades, you must work with a long-term perspective. Although COVID-19 has been extremely disruptive to American life and work, it is likely only temporary. That said, there will always be factors beyond your control that affect your business. So, practice resiliency!

Sticking with training programs through thick and thin enables you to build and maintain a solid foundation of skilled workers that is less likely to be eroded by economic downturns and other negative events. Clients will be more likely to give you business, even during tough times, because they will trust the quality of your work. And, employees will recognize your dedication to long-term goals and will not be as quick to bolt for greener pastures.

Best Training Practices

Construction training programs usually involve a mix of classroom learning and field experience. But to promote social distancing, you should be able to conduct at least some training online (look for training tools and options that can be conducted through a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet). For a more effective program, consider these tips:

  • Use your training curriculum as a guideline. Determine what results you'll track to measure training effectiveness. The more specific the measurement, the better idea you'll have about where improvements are needed.
  • Employ online tests and field demonstration audits that evaluate workers on specific tasks. Keep the ratings as objective as possible.
  • Encourage workers to ask questions and allow them to try new approaches to old challenges.
  • Have your crews evaluate themselves and ask them where they think they need additional training.

It is easy to just go through the training motions and check the box. In order for the training to provide optimal value, it is critical to understand key takeaways that can be incorporated into your every day work.

Avoiding Adverse Effects

Even if you are tempted to reduce training costs now, the decision could have adverse effects over the long term. With the proper skills, your workers will do their jobs faster and better and help you avoid costly overruns and do-overs. Contact us for help reviewing and building effective training programs, at nthompson@vlcpa.com