The AGC of America recently published its 2017 Construction Hiring & Business Outlook Summary. Nearly 1,300 construction firms participated in this outlook survey between early November and mid-December, representing a broad range of firms in terms of size, business volume, and geographic distribution.
The overall outlook is optimistic for the industry in 2017; however, there still remain many significant challenges facing the industry, including growing workforce shortages and increasing costs for healthcare and regulatory compliance.
Many of the industry trends for 2017 are a promising outlook on projects in the Northeast, inclusive of healthy academic (both private and public) projects, multidevelopment housing projects, science and pharmaceutical, and a strong corporate fit-out market.
Many of us are looking at creative ways to recruit and hire the best employees as well as keep our current employees happy, focused on their employment, and ensuring that their current annual salary is commensurate with the market conditions. There is a lack of available qualified employee offerings in the workforce, and many firms are hiring these employees with higher salaries that are in most cases not commensurate with the experience levels that they are being sold at.
Recruiting has begun earlier, with quite a bit of hiring done through coop or intern programs, so that key, selected potential employees are identified during this stage and deals struck well before graduation. It is a win-win for all of us. The students, who are graduating, can then focus on their final academic year/semester without worrying about finding a job upon graduation. For employers, we have worked with the students through the coop experience, trained them on our systems internally, and know that we are getting competent, qualified entry-level employees that we can continue to work with to cultivate and shape their careers with our firm for the long term. Many CMs are providing a mentoring program to get their younger staff on a career plan that allows for setting the expectations for growth at a level that they can manage in order to keep them at the firm.
The subcontractor market has been beyond capacity during peak times of the year. During the summer months, when all the summer academic work is in full force, there is no capacity for subcontractors who work in this market sector and the other market sectors. Lead times of products increase on many specialty products and some of the made-to-order, newer design products being specified by architects. Lighting, HVAC, elevators, switchgear, etc. continue to be problematic, as these are not shelf stock items. Successfully managing these products given their lead times has become a key factor to the successful management of a project, especially with the tight schedules that we have on projects. Project competition is still very tight, with slow growth to profit, yet construction costs are rising at the rate of inflation and cost of living increases.
The investment of technology continues to drive our business, finding ways to stay on the cutting edge with our competition with BIM, use of drones to take aerial photos, software systems that aid in the reduction of dual entry systems and duplication of work effort, creating a more streamlined approach to estimating, construction management, and project closeout. In essence, any way that we can transfer information into real time management as it relates to the QAQC, RFI, etc. process, we are looking to do. The use of laser scanning, BIM, to identify existing building conditions and essentially virtually building the space before you step foot on the site, continue to be ways that improve our productivity and minimize site time and costly errors on the project.
Rose Conti, is director of interiors & special projects for Lee Kennedy Company, located in Quincy, Mass.