Asphalt workers are in high demand, wages are rising and there’s significant competition, especially for journeymen workers. With these challenges also comes opportunity. Generation Z represents a big opportunity for the construction and asphalt industries, as they are the newest generation in the workforce and vary greatly from what the asphalt business has been used to.
In order to make the most of these changes, two experts from the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) share insights into how to attract the next generation of asphalt workers: J. Richard Willis, PHD, and Ester C. Magorka, MBA, CAE.
1. Fulfill their aspirations for a career
Generation Z has different career priorities from previous workforce generations. While other generations may have prided themselves on company loyalty and working their way up the corporate ladder, the next generation of workers strive for flexibility in their careers that allows them to live the life they desire, outside of the workplace. According to a 2019 YouGov survey, when asked about what drives their job selection, 17-25 year old workers said the three most important factors are.
- Contributing to a greater good
- Work/life balance
Having work aligned with their values is a top priority for the next generation of workers. In addition, 40% of respondents said they'd rather be unemployed than stuck in a job they don't love.
2. Target young women workers
It may be surprising to hear, but the highest growth area in the construction workforce over the last five years have been 18-24 year old women with no college experience. This is an opportunity that very few asphalt businesses have noticed and taken advantage of, likely due to that this has not traditionally been the target workforce in construction. To capitalize on this, make a concerted effort to hire women for construction crews, as they are just as hungry and motivated to work as males in the workforce.
3. Showcase lack of debt and growth opportunities
Similarly to the women, young males are also deciding to forego attending college, instead opting for careers straight out of high school that pay well and allow for growth opportunities. The next generation does not see the value in higher education like previous generations have, which is good news for trade industries looking to fill entry level positions that require little-to-no previous experience. With this, workers are able to start making good money right away and avoid the looming debt that comes from attending college. In addition, highlight the opportunities for advancement that entry-level workers can expect. Generation Z workers need to feel appreciated, and having growth opportunities are one area that this appreciation can be shown.
Let's not forget it's not just about professional growth with the next generation, it's also about personal growth. Show these workers that this job matters and makes a difference in the community. It's not just about repaving a street with asphalt, it's about creating quality roadways that help people get to where they need to go safely and efficiently, or laying a new sheet of asphalt on a playground so kids can have a better place to play. Again it's not just about the money for this generation, it's also about contributing to the greater good.
4. Get involved in the education system
Many high schools in the United States have moved towards offering trade-focused courses, including metal working, machine operation, equipment maintenance, among others. These classes are ripe for recruiting talent as the students within these classes are generally already intrigued by the construction and asphalt industries and are looking for a full-time career upon graduation. Not to mention these students are qualified. Becoming more visible within the education systems and creating partnerships with educators helps to increase the opportunities for businesses to find young, quality workers, as well as helps to keep a pulse on any new trends in the workforce.
About the experts
J. Richard Willis, Ph.D. serves as the Vice President of Engineering, Research, & technology with the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). Richard has a passion for teaching and regularly travels throughout the country to educate people on NAPA’s initiatives and priorities.
Ester C. Magorka, MBA, CAE is the Senior Vice President of Industry Promotion & Membership with the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). She aims to promote the use of asphalt pavements by creating engaging materials for pavement road owners, based on scientific research, and delivered via the Asphalt Pavement Alliance in a coordinated outreach plan.
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