Labor Shortage

President's Message

Labor Shortage

How do we entice people to come join us—quickly and efficiently—in this wonderful world of components?

A good man or woman is hard to find. At least that’s how it feels these days when looking to hire new employees. Our business is dealing with key labor shortages from crew leaders, to maintenance positions, to design technicians and draftsmen. It’s time to bring new blood into the structural building components industry, but in some markets it feels like the workers simply aren’t there. This issue was definitely on my mind when I met with lawmakers during the SBC Legislative Conference held in May. I’m sad to say that most of the lawmakers that I met with in D.C. did not have a quick and easy solution, but in the past that has not stopped our industry from thinking outside of the box.

The labor pool from five years ago has dried up, with many people moving out of the area or transitioning over to this other industry. Here in Louisiana, as well as other states like Texas, North Dakota and South Dakota, the oil and gas industry is also sucking up the labor pool. That industry’s boom leaves us feeling the pinch for good workers.

Jobs in the oil and gas industry also tend to offer high wages, which puts the crunch on component manufacturers to stay competitive. With already tight truss margins, we’re thin to begin with, and it’s a challenge determining when to raise wages. We rely heavily on SBCA’s Financial Performance (FPS) and Wage and Benefit Surveys to see how our business measures up in our market and then adjust accordingly. But even with this wealth of knowledge, you may find yourself out in the cold trying to figure out when and by how much to raise wages to remain competitive.

With labor shortages across the entire country, how do we entice people to come join us—quickly and efficiently—in this wonderful world of components? Recently, I spoke to one of our members who had great success in hiring a new designer using SBCA’s WorkForce Development (WFD) website. All of us get very busy at times and simply forget about this tool. However, if we all pitch in and begin to utilize WFD to our advantage, it could save us a tremendous amount of time and money when trying to hire new employees. For the past few months, our association has begun to revise this site and make it much more user friendly. Look for some very positive changes to come about in the near future.

Recently, another member mentioned that they developed a great working relationship with their local technical college. This connection has provided several interns who have developed into outstanding employees. Local job fairs and even connecting with local high school teachers/programs are another way to meet and greet the potential work force in your area.   

For our company, we focus on trying to get people in the door and let them learn more about the structural building components industry. We’ve run ads on Craigslist with some success. We’ve also gotten a number of employees through temp
agencies. When we hire someone through an agency, they come on board as a temporary position, which, if things go well and they do good work, can turn into a permanent job.

Of course, with any agency comes certain challenges for which you must prepare. For instance, we may bring in ten to 20 employees and retain only five or ten if we are lucky. Let’s face it, building trusses is hard work, and sometimes people just don’t want to work! This high volume of turnover can bring uncertainty and instability inside to your operation in a hurry. Despite interviewing each temporary and full-time candidate and putting them through tests and pre-hire training, you can never guarantee that those individuals will stay. It may not happen as often as I’d like it to, but it’s great to see someone come in who maybe only thought this would be a short-term job, but before they know it, they’re building a career.  

One of the great things about the truss industry is how someone with determination and a good work ethic can move up through the ranks. I’ve had employees who started at the company working outside on the line and moved up to the position of sales manager. With a labor shortage like we’re experiencing now, a lack of depth in leadership inside our plant also makes it very difficult to find people to move up and fill key positions. Nevertheless, it’s important to let current and potential employees know about the range of jobs available and opportunities for advancement. Our business maintains that this process is the healthiest for any business’ long-term future.

So with all of the challenges that face us on a daily basis, we must keep our heads held high and fight the good fight. Our endeavor to bring fresh blood back into the component industry will not fail because men and women like you are determined to be successful and spread the word that components are cool!