Samantha Rist, Head of Construction Self Perform at Katerra
Apprenticeship programs offering portable credentials and instruction on the latest technologies can attract new workers and help to reduce the labor shortage
The construction industry is facing a labor crisis. That fact in and of itself isn’t news; the construction industry has battled a persistent shortage of skilled labor since the end of the Great Recession, long before the rest of the economy was faced with similar struggles.
What is unique about the construction labor shortage—and what deserves greater attention—is its impact on communities across the country. The lack of construction workers is slowing the delivery of new buildings and also driving up prices, both significant contributors to the affordable housing crisis. It’s clear that we must attract, develop, and retain new construction workers if we want to meet the housing demand and better control costs.
Of course, the productivity issues within construction are due to more than just the ongoing labor shortage alone. Building today is essentially the same as it was in the 1800s, standing as the last craft industry yet to enter the industrial or technology age. Construction companies traditionally invest less than one percent of revenue in new technologies – lower than every other major industry. As a result, the last several decades have seen U.S. construction productivity fall while costs continue to go up.
Katerra, where I lead our Self-Perform team, was founded four years ago on the principle that change in the construction industry is long overdue. To help address construction’s widening productivity gap, we’ve reimagined the end-to-end building process, with a focus on the introduction of new technologies aimed at bringing more data, automation, and efficiency into construction.
Much of our technology is applied through designing buildings for manufacturing and utilizing the offsite construction of building components in our factories, which are then flat-packed and shipped to the project site for faster assembly. According to a recent McKinsey report, offsite construction projects have established a solid track record of accelerating project timelines by 20 to 50 percent. And we are seeing similar results: our approach is yielding better quality buildings, delivered more efficiently and in significantly less time than the traditional method.
Using modern technology to drive efficiencies across the design/build process is one big piece of the puzzle—but it’s not enough. We won’t solve the construction productivity or housing affordability challenges with technology alone.
Across all trades, the construction industry desperately needs more workers with the training and skills necessary for the new ways we are building. It is critical to invest in building a next-generation construction workforce that is ready to meet the challenges—and embrace the best tools—of both today and tomorrow.
To do our part, Katerra recently launched apprenticeship programs for the construction trades that reflect our technology-driven approach. Designed to incorporate cutting-edge techniques and the latest technology that is shaping the future of construction, Katerra apprentices earn a nationally recognized, portable credit that will benefit recruits throughout their career – at Katerra and beyond.
We now offer registered apprenticeships for carpentry, plumbing, electrical and HVAC, with other trades to follow in the future. Our educational curricula are accredited through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), and each of our apprenticeship programs is registered with and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.
We are proud to help develop the next generation of tradespeople. Our goal is not only to improve productivity but also to make the construction industry a source of great careers once again. We can offer a direct pathway to high-quality jobs and career pathways—and help to reduce the labor shortage at the same time. It’s a no-brainer.
Now is an incredibly exciting and rewarding time to be in the construction industry. With new technologies and renewed entrepreneurial spirit, the industry is on the precipice of profound change. The apprenticeship program is first of many initiatives we will pursue to bring new talent into the trades. (This includes bringing in more gender balance, as women remain woefully underrepresented at nine percent of the workforce.)
I can’t wait to see where all of this new talent, armed with 21st-century training, will take us next.
Originally published on LinkedIn