It’s a story that is being repeated across most of the top industries in the United States. After a difficult 2020 defined by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies find themselves racing to rebuild. For hands-on industries like engineering and construction, building back the business has a much more literal meaning. Will there be enough skilled hands ready to take on these critical jobs? Following months of project delays and workforce reductions, are organizations ready to get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment? Here is what the research is indicating. 

Key Factors Affecting the Engineering and Construction Hiring Landscape

Prior to the onset of COVID-19 protocols, the engineering and construction industries were already facing a shortage of skilled labor. The pandemic has simply accelerated an existing shortfall. In fact, research indicates that more than one million workers may have left these jobs when construction projects were paused in 2020 due to safety concerns. For an industry already facing a growing skills gap, this mass exodus would be the reason for concern under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, it’s not the only factor contributing to an increasingly complex hiring landscape. 

Another effect of pandemic conditions has been a surprising boom in the housing market. Home construction and improvement projects are surging, as more Americans shift to hybrid and remote work roles. According to Associated Builders and Contractors, construction spending increased by 4.8 percent in 2020 even as industry employment levels fell. This paradox can be explained in part by pent-up demand in the market meeting rising building material and labor costs.

“Constraints on hiring are pushing wages higher,” said Anirban Basu, Chief Economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors. “This comes on top of materials price increases experienced in recent months. Remarkably, despite inflationary pressures, the ongoing wait for a meaningful federal infrastructure package, and compromised commercial real estate fundamentals, most nonresidential contractors remain positive regarding their prospects over the balance of the year.”

In short, while there do appear to be a number of challenges facing engineering and construction employers, there is cause for optimism as project opportunities return. 

Takeaways for Job Seekers and Employers

For jobseekers with engineering or construction experience, there are numerous career opportunities on the market today. With employment numbers still lagging behind February 2020 levels, the greatest challenge facing employers is attracting skilled labor. In many cases, this could mean expanded compensation and benefits options for qualified candidates. Now is the perfect time for job seekers to assess their applicable experience, target upskilling opportunities in order to expand these skill sets, and take advantage of an industry in desperate need of support.

For employers, it is time to use every resource available to build the workforce needed to get projects back on track. While looming infrastructure legislation may provide support eventually, organizations are feeling the pressures right now. Expanded compensation offerings may help attract top talent, but financial constraints may limit these options. Creative benefits, such as offering training programs to develop talent lacking in-demand skill sets, may help to energize search efforts. Additionally, establishing relationships with staffing partners can open organizations up to access to deep recruiting pools, including passive job seekers with highly sought-after skill sets. 

Are you looking to build a career in engineering or construction? Do you need a workforce capable of leading and delivering project success? Learn how Medix Engineering and Construction is supporting job seekers and employers to reach their goals here.