In November 2019, we hosted 120 or so key stakeholders in the housing industry for a deep dive event focused on driving attainability for middle income households – those who make roughly $50K-$125K per year.

In table-based think tanks of six to eight people, we addressed 15 questions related to PLACE, PRODUCT and PRODUCTION (or process) – the three big buckets that need to be tackled to make homes more attainable without sacrificing the quality of our homes and our lives.

Here’s a question from the PRODUCTION segment of our agenda.

Some people prefer working with their hands, while others lead with their minds. How do we look at the new jobs to be done to encourage, educate and employ a new labor force?

We asked 21 thought leaders, including regional and national housing providers; experts in innovation, architecture, government relations, risk management, off-site construction, recruiting and mechanical systems; manufacturers; academics and a market analyst.

Here’s what they had to say.

1: Use computer modeling.

Today on construction sites, we look at a two-dimensional object that hasn’t been worked through in a three-dimensional world and try to solve those problems on site. We need people in the field who can do both.

Let those who are [knowledge workers] use BIM [building information modeling] to solve problems before you start building. Then when you get into the actual execution of it, identify the people who can work with their hands and problem solve on the spot. They will be more efficient through that process. With time and experience, they can also play an integral role upfront to resolve potential issues during the design process.

2: Emphasize a career path.

When they enter the industry, electricians, plumbers, drywallers [usually] think only about getting “a job.” Part of the discussion needs to be, “Look, this can be something more.” There’s an education process that needs to happen where kids today know there’s a career path, and there are a lot of directions you can go in.

Help build the positive image of the industry through recognition of skills and create something, where you might tell new workers that in three or four years, you’ll send them to business school at a community college where they can learn how to run a business and start their own trade group.

In this case, the “you” could be a builder, developer, trade contractor or manufacturer offering that insight / benefit.

3: Make construction attractive.

We have, as an industry, allowed ourselves to push innovation and progress off to the point where we continue to create a work environment that is dirty, unpleasant, difficult and very dangerous. Who wants to work in an environment like that?

Innovating and transforming the industry and the way we build is our best hope of bringing workers back. Make construction something that people want to go into by creating a work environment that provides stable hours, benefits, secure working conditions that are more comfortable and not as back-breaking—and out of the elements.

Off-site construction is a step in the right direction, but use other technologies too. The millennial generation has been raised on technology and connectivity and will expect to have digital tools available to support their work efforts. Printed drawings alone aren’t going to cut it.

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