We all know it; we all talk about it. Construction’s poor public image prevents it from attracting fresh, innovative talent. The lack of that fresh, innovative talent prevents it from changing its image. Buzzwords notwithstanding, construction needs a rebrand.
We can start by connecting the industry, as well as its many diverse players, with the public on intuitive, emotional levels. Construction is a collective – a community of workers who have families, and enjoy sports, and go to church, and celebrate holidays and so much more – just like everyone else.
And thus, to change its image, construction must engage the public. The industry must move towards the many benefits and away from the (often negative) stereotypes. This will require a grassroots effort. In the USA alone, there are nearly 700,000 construction employers. Rebranding needs to happen within and around thousands of firms across many layers of society to find sustainable traction. Here are a few ideas.
Become a part of the community around your sites. A new construction site often brings groans of discontent. While not all the side effects – noise, congestion, dust – can be changed, you can certainly engage the surrounding community. Reach out to them, even make friends. Explain exactly what is going on and why, which will allow them to more easily process and digest the situation. Discuss the interesting aspects of the project with them. There are likely numerous parts of this job that would genuinely stoke the curiosity of many community members – and in time, that consistent level of interest could equal interested young workers.
Have the company join a local recreational sports league. Not only does this allow the community to get to know you and your workers on a personal level, it all but assures that they’ll develop a different perception of who you are and what you do, including the current project. It’s also a good opportunity for your employees to de-stress and have fun with their co-workers and meet new people. This isn’t so much a place to push education as it is simply an opportunity to have some fun and get to know people.
Visiting local schools is always a good idea. It’s a great way to put yourself in front of a potentially huge, and lasting workforce. You can educate children and young adults on all aspects of a construction career and get them to start planning to enter construction early. Remember, most young people today aren’t looking in the direction of construction or transportation, which means they likely don’t have a clue as to how interesting or “cool” it is. This is a chance to show off all the cool stuff that happens in our profession – especially the integration with technology that will likely catch their attention. And bring the numbers – show some of the older students exactly what type of money and long-term potential is available.
Maximise your digital presence: it goes without saying at this point, but still needs to be done. If the industry continues to lag behind in the digital age, the rest of the world, i.e. the next generation of workers – will assume we’re as unsexy as they think we are. Upgrade your website so it’s more visually appealing and interactive; hire someone to handle modern communication channels (social media, press releases, adverts, etc.); maintain a blog or at least a running record of your projects, complete with attractive photos or video.
Ultimately, we’re all in this together. Competition aside, the biggest project at present for everyone is re-establishing the skilled trades as a worthwhile and attractive career.