Tapping High School Seniors to Recruit the Next Generation of Trade Workers

The construction industry is notorious for being on the cutting edge of modernization—pushing the envelope to make a design, build, or process better, more effective or more efficient; relying heavily on technology to help clients get to the future, faster. But for how much the industry relies on technology to improve the craft, the recruitment efforts are completely outdated.

Technology is relied on for everything: booking appointments, food delivery, fitness, entertainment and groceries, to name a few. So why is the construction so heavily relying on outdated tactics to recruit the next generation of construction workers?

Not that long ago, the landscape for hiring was significantly different than it is today. Candidates walked in the door (literally), asked for an application and applied on the spot. Over time, the foot traffic slowed down, so the industry adjusted by seeding referral bonuses. This tactic was certainly more costly than walk-ins, but the pivot in approach was necessary to keep new talent coming in. Eventually, however, referral bonuses began to fall, so the industry was tasked with coming up with new ways of recruitment. This time, they leveraged the internet by posting jobs on sites like Craigslist and Monster.com.

But fast forward to today, even those tactics feel outdated as the nation suffers labor shortages, with the construction industry taking one of the biggest hits. So where are the workers? Where should the industry start recruiting? An increasingly overlooked group is graduating high school seniors. There’s no doubt employers know that high school seniors would make great candidates, but the industry struggles to reach them directly and in an impactful way.

In many cases, high school grads are pushed to college and loaded with debt, only to find that meaningful and lucrative work in construction is left in the rearview mirror. Waiting until the student’s senior year of high school to introduce them to the world of construction and trades is too late.

The industry has to move to the future at a faster pace to meet these potential candidates where they are: online. More than any other generation in our lifetime, Gen Z has only known technology since they were born. This generation makes up a significant population on social media and quite frankly, Gen Zs are searching potential employers using Google, checking out Facebook, Instagram or TikTok pages. If the job seeker doesn’t see any sort of online presence for the company, chances are, the ship has sailed.

So that begs the question: How can the industry grab Gen Z’s attention? Make connections with the very technology in every youth’s pocket to showcase how important the trades are to not only the economy, but also their wallet.

Tips for meeting Gen Z online include the following.

  • Build an online presence—it doesn’t need to be significant, but be present;
  • Ensure the website’s careers page is updated.
  • Ensure the website is built with SEO and keywords in mind. Often, candidates will type something similar to “construction jobs in my area.” Ensure the site is set up in a way that will put your website at the top of their search results. There are both paid and organic ways to accomplish this.
  • There’s no need to be on every social media outlet, but pick at least one or two, create a page and keep it updated. No one likes seeing pages that haven’t been updated in months.
  • Create a (small) content calendar. Once contractors have picked a social outlet or two, develop a small content calendar so content stays new and fresh: share job postings, show behind the scenes photos of life inside the company, show employees in action and share the company’s community involvement.
  • Consider a job recruitment app that is developed entirely for recruiting and searching for careers in construction.

Aside from meeting Gen Z online, employers should get in front of high school guidance counselors. While counselors aren’t pushing the student in one direction or the other, counselors are arming students with information on all possibilities post-graduation.

During recent conversations with high school guidance counselors across the country, a vast majority were unaware where to obtain or how to provide trade information to students. This is a great opportunity to educate and give counselors the tools needed to have impactful and informed conversations with students.

Tips for connecting with high school guidance counselors include the following.

  • Research and outreach: Determine area counselors and send an email introduction (such as a quick elevator pitch, including what the company is able to offer: career day speakers, job shadowing, sponsorships, booth at career fairs, resume reviewers). Most importantly, just listen.
  • Connect: As the expert source, offer to connect the counselors with other area trade leaders.
  • Be proactive: Continue the conversation and check in often.

The bottom line is simple, the time is now to connect with the next generation of trade laborers. The industry is counting on it.

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