How Inclusive Hiring Practices Can Open the Door to Careers in Construction and Beyond  

The construction industry is the backbone of our nation. Those who work in the field play important roles in building and maintaining critical infrastructure, yet the industry is facing an unprecedented labor shortage that is continuing to grow. According to Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers on top of the normal pace of hiring this year to meet demand.

The labor shortage plaguing the industry has underscored fundamental breakdowns in connecting a ready-to-work population with job opportunities. If we can connect those who want to work, including people who are unemployed, returning to society from incarceration, re-entering the workforce from a hiatus, or turning of working age, with the vast opportunities in the construction industry, we can build candidate pipelines to reduce the workforce gap. As we honor Careers in Construction Month, an observance focused on promoting the range of opportunities in the industry, it’s important to reflect on a critical piece of the puzzle – connecting ready-to-work job seekers with long-term careers.

As businesses seek innovative ways to attract and retain talent, they should look inward and examine their hiring practices and policies to ensure they’re being inclusive and fostering a diverse workforce. Considering ways to support individuals who are facing barriers preventing them from finding long-term employment is critical. By considering each employee’s unique needs and implementing services that help remove barriers, companies can fulfill their workforce needs, increase retention and productivity, and open the door to a rewarding career path.

As the workforce relations and public affairs manager for Flagger Force, I’ve witnessed firsthand how fair-chance hiring can be mutually beneficial for job seekers and businesses. Flagger Force is an industry-leading, short-term traffic control company that supports the nation’s expanding utilities, telecommunications, and other infrastructure-centered needs. With nearly 2,000 employees across 11 states, a vital part of keeping our communities moving is having enough team members to meet demand. A commitment to fair-chance hiring and workforce development has been crucial to cultivating a strong, reliable workforce.

Fair-chance hiring involves intentionally recruiting candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences, including those who have been previously imprisoned or impacted by the criminal justice system, and providing them with the dignity of work without the undue scrutiny or social stigma they often face. By considering candidates for their capabilities first, businesses will find there is a population of talented individuals with the attributes needed to thrive in a range of positions, in turn creating positive impacts in the lives of employees, families, the community, and the economy.

An essential part of inclusive hiring and workforce development is providing candidates with the resources and programs needed to succeed. For example, transportation is an often-cited barrier. By exploring options and partnerships to support candidates getting to and from work, companies can create significant change. Thinking holistically and identifying ways to create connections with candidates, build opportunities for continued education, and offer support in and out of the workplace, will enhance workforce development programs and open the door to advancement. Programs at the heart of Flagger Force’s approach to workforce development include a company vehicle typically within 45-60 days of employment, a mentee/mentor program that matches entry-level candidates with veteran team members, a 24/7 employee assistance hotline, a free GED program, in-house training, and more to help employees grow both personally and professionally. When provided with the right opportunities and resources, I’ve seen individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences succeed in the workplace and advance quickly.

In honor of Careers in Construction Month, consider opening the door to a fulfilling career for those in the community who are ready to work but may have circumstances that prevent them from finding long-term employment. Hiring and supporting candidates with diverse backgrounds will not only fill open positions, but also help keep our communities moving, growing, and thriving.