There are upwards of 8 million people employed in the construction business in the US, and many of those employees are highly skilled masters of their craft. However, with building project demands, an uptick in development in many regions, and a well-documented labor shortage in the US, some workers and contractors hired by construction firms may fall short of the skill level required to complete jobs safely, efficiently, and successfully.
Proper training is vital to the construction industry, as there are many regulations, safety guidelines, and new innovations within the regular scope of work conducted that must be followed. Without proper training, construction workers can easily fall to the wayside amid a rush to develop areas quickly.
From Learning by Doing to Structured Training
Working in construction is one of the most dangerous jobs one can do. There are many ways workers can be injured during a workday, from burns to falls or electrocution. As such, one of the most important aspects of training in construction is to teach workers how to protect themselves and remain safe on the job. In the past, many workers learned by doing, or through apprenticeships working under a family member in a specific trade.
Matt DiBara, the fourth-generation owner of DiBara Masonry, learned the masonry trade early — and that experience has informed his approach to consulting and training in the construction industry. “I started working when I was nine. My first day on the job, I mixed my first bag of mortar,” Dibara told Masonry Magazine. “The first day on the job, my dad handed me a mixer and I told him the bag was too heavy. He handed me a knife and told me to cut the bag in half. Afterward, my dad handed me trash bags and made me clean up the job site; not just ours, but all of the trades’.”
DiBara has always held ethics as the key to running a successful construction firm, and trains his employees to follow that ethos. “For DiBara Masonry, our biggest challenge has always been focusing on ethics rather than hyper growth. It’s the choice to do things the right way, even if that means doing it slower or making less money. We have a company ethos that goes, ‘Is this something you would do for your mother?’ If we decide that it isn’t, then we don’t do it,” he says.
DiBara’s early experience in the construction trade allowed him to “learn by doing,” but not every worker is given the same opportunity. In addition, construction firms need to hire a good number of workers quickly to keep up with the demand for home construction and other development projects. The “hyper growth” mindset starts to overtake in-depth training needs and, sometimes, ethical standards.
To elevate the trade overall, a growing number of construction firms are turning to a more structured learning platform for their workers. Instead of cobbling together teams with a wide range of skills — or lack thereof — they are building cohesive teams that are being trained simultaneously and with the same training materials. This focus on structured training has allowed firms to grow and develop projects to continue to meet demand while still holding high standards for quality and safety.
DiBara is one of the leaders in the construction industry that is driving this shift to a more structured hiring and training system. He has run workshops and courses through The Contractor Consultants that teach construction managers and firms how to pinpoint quality hires and retain them. “With today’s labor shortage, it can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t have the right staff in place,” says DiBara. “Most contractors are still hiring like it’s 1965.”
To meet modern demands, firms and managers need to think in modern terms. Most employees expect and welcome not only initial training, but also continuing education options to grow in their chosen trade.
From Essential Training to Advanced Skills
DiBara is part of a generation that began with a family-borne trade and leveraged those skills into a highly-specialized trade. His family training could only take him so far, and he attended trade school to hone his skills and learn how to run a business, manage a construction site, and market his firm.
Training in the essentials for construction workers should be a given for any project or company. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that — at the very least — construction workers complete a 10-hour safety course. OSHA also required that employers provide workers with training, but that does not mean that those standards are always met in today’s fast and furious construction industry.
Beyond the basic safety and regulation training that all construction workers should receive, many firms offer their employees advanced training opportunities to build a more supportive work culture and retain top talent. Consistency in training employees can elevate the entire company to new heights, regardless of how large or small the firm may be.
“Companies are best able to grow when they possess a strong culture that lets them find the right people,” DiBara says. “I’m a big supporter of the trades. The ability to connect skilled workers with better paying jobs is huge for me because it helps restore confidence in the industry.”
With more engaged and better trained employees, construction projects can run more smoothly and the overall perception of the industry can improve. Site managers can feel comfortable not micro-managing their teams if they are assured that they are fully trained under a standardized training system. Highly trained workers also increase their own value in the market, leading to better wages, better job opportunities, and deeper insight into proper risk management practices.
From preventing accidents to improving the quality of work on-site, comprehensive training for construction workers is vital to the growing construction industry. Although inflation and supply chain interruptions have hampered the growth of the construction industry in recent years, the industry is primed for a “comeback” of sorts and is expected to continue growing in 2023 and beyond. Focusing on thorough training will allow the industry to meet this growing demand with quality, safety, and talent retention as a priority.