What employers need to know about multi-skilling and a non-mobile workforce to keep job satisfaction high
By Tim Taylor, P.E., Ph.D.
Did you know that construction workers report higher levels of job satisfaction than all other industries combined—not just today, but through four distinct economic cycles since 1974!? The data comes from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. As little as 86% and up to 89% of people working in the construction trades like their jobs. That’s exciting news to share as we celebrate Careers in Construction Month this October.
One reason for that may be the combination of pay and flexibility that this career path offers. While just over 9% of craft professionals are trained in more than one skill area, the availability of a multi-skilled craft workforce has steadily increased since 2005, and the trend is expected to continue into 2030.
The top 10 dual-skill pairings among craft professional populations between 2005 and 2019 are (CII RT-370):
- Rigger and Pipefitter
- Rigger and Boilermaker
- Boilermaker and Pipefitter
- Pipefitter and Ironworker
- Pipefitter and Instrumentation Electrician
- Ironworker and Carpenter
- Pipefitter and Crane Operator
- Scaffold and Insulation
- Ironworker and Crane Operator
- Pipefitter and Millwright
This increase in multi-skilling has been driven organically by workers, not by employers. Key reasons cited include seeking more consistent employment, higher wages, more challenging work, and interest in learning a new trade or to obtain easier physical work. Researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder and NCCER are currently working to further understand the factors and impacts of multi-skilling.
Preparing for a less mobile workforce
As craft worker preferences change, employers need to be prepared to meet those needs. High job satisfaction is generally acknowledged as having a direct correlation to low turnover, as cited by many sources. This means that the industry may need to rethink the way projects are designed to take advantage of the increasingly multi-skilled, less mobile workforce.
Employers would be wise to acknowledge the desire of workers to learn new skills and provide the opportunity for doing so.
- Provide opportunities for new industry entrants to explore different trades to identify an area of interest.
- Communicate defined career path options within your organization.
- Give employees credit for related knowledge, skills, and abilities that contribute to competency in the new skill area.
- Provide resources for adult learners—training that is flexible and self-paced.
According to research conducted by the Construction Industry Institute (CII RT-252), the most important workforce development element is a firm’s formal policy for or commitment to providing a formal craft skills training program. Interestingly, the contractors, owners and other training professionals that participated in the study had the same perception towards the relative importance of workforce development elements.
Related to this, the growing preference by an increasing percentage of craft professionals is to remain in one geographic location versus traveling for work. At the same time, spousal employment within the industry has grown to above 80%. Together, these factors point to reduced mobility among the craft workforce – a trend that is likely to intensify in coming years. (CII RT-370) These videos provide additional insight into the multi-skilled workforce.
Careers in Construction Month
Careers in Construction Month is a nationwide campaign held every October to increase public awareness of construction careers, inspire the next generation of craft professionals, and make an impact on the perceptions of a career in construction. Discover resources and get involved here.
Join us for the 2022 Construction Career Pathways Conference, November 30 in Las Vegas, Nev. Get registered here.
About the Author
Tim Taylor is the Director of Research for the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and a former chair professor of civil engineering at the University of Kentucky. His field experience comes from working in his family’s excavation company, in the coal industry as pit foreman and mine support engineer, and later as railroad superintendent for Luminant, Martin Lake Mine. His academic career includes many honors and awards and leading numerous construction industry research projects.
The National Center for Construction Education & Research is a nonprofit 501()3 education foundation created in 1996. NCCER exists to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals by providing universally recognized training, assessment, certification and career development for construction and maintenance craft professionals. Learn more at NCCER.org. Among its workforce development initiatives are Build Your Future at byf.org, Construction Career Pathways, and Hard Hat Heroes.