Where are the Construction Project Managers?

The construction industry is facing a labor shortage, and project managers (PMs) are among the top three hardest to find of skilled workers. Four out of five organizations report that they are struggling to find qualified PMs, and more than 20% of PMs are approaching retirement age and will need replacing. How did this shortage come about and catch so many companies seemingly off-guard?

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Construction project managers are in short supply as a result of a rebounding economy, an aging workforce, and a dwindling supply of new talent. Other possible reasons for the shortage include shortsighted hiring practices, lack of planning for the future, and cuts in budgets that result in fewer trainees. While there may be plenty of junior talent available, mid-level and senior talent are hard to find. These are the workers who have experience and knowledge in the field—things that cannot be taught.

What can be done about this shortage in the short term? One simple solution is for a company to look internally for talent already on the organization’s payroll. Training current employees for advancement is cheaper in the long run than hiring new employees. Also, promoting from within enables an employee to build upon existing knowledge and skills in less time than a new hire. Another option is to bring in a third party consultant specializing in PM development who can look at employees more objectively than those within an organization.

For a longterm solution, organizations must look toward the future and have one, three, and five-year plans for employment needs. Also, current executives and PMs should play a major role in finding and developing a new generation of company leaders. Part of that plan should include recruiting college graduates in order to prevent future shortages.

One way of ensuring that your company is appealing to future generations is to have tools and practices in place that demonstrate up-to-date technology and efficiency. The next generation of project managers expect access to the tools that help them communicate effectively and meet or exceed expectations set for schedule and budget.

Predicting future needs may be difficult, but having enough PMs will be beneficial in the long run because a company will be able to work on more contracts. An organization’s success is ultimately defined by its ability to execute projects and to satisfy customers—these are also the project manager’s main responsibilities. An unexpected bonus of the shortage is that experienced project managers and promising recruits will encounter more opportunities and likely higher salaries.

Photo © U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Journalist Melissa Pinsonneault/Wikimedia Commons