I am the father of two cyborgs.

That is, I am the father of two Millennials. As far as I’m concerned, they may as well be cyborgs. As someone who came of age in a media ecology of tape decks, typewriters, and landlocked telephones, the digital fluency of the rising generation is a frequent object of wonder. How do they master all that new tech so fast? I’m always tempted to check for the electrode at the back of their necks, where the download plug-in goes (anyone remember the movie The Matrix?).

Millennials not only have minds that seem symbiotically linked to digital technology, they also have a technological mindset—they enthusiastically embrace new technology, as well as its capacity to enhance productivity by enabling collaboration.

As a veteran of the building industry, I find this mindset to be cause for both hope and fear.

Hope: this mindset, and the skill set it supports, is exactly what we need to help change the industry, and drag it into the future.

Fear: this mindset is incompatible with the anachronistic condition of the industry, and its deep-rooted resistance to change—will we be able to attract all this new talent?

Either way, they’re coming. By 2020, Millennials are expected to represent 50% of the global workforce.

They’re smart, innovative, tech-savvy—and most of them have little or no interest in the building industry.

That’s a problem.

Here’s another “50%” fact: 50% of general contractors are concerned about finding experienced crafts workers.

At present, the industry suffers from a scarcity of skilled labor. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

There a few major reasons for this labor shortage:

Loss from the recession. Between April 2006 and January 2011, the building industry cut nearly 2.3 million jobs–over 40% of its workforce. The majority of these skilled workers have never returned.

Aging workforce. In the US, between 1985 and 2014, the average age of construction workers rose sharply from 36 to 43 years. During the same period the proportion of imminent retirees (45 to 64 years) increased from 25% to 40%.

Recruiting issues. The industry is perceived as pale-stale-male, with a conservative culture, inadequate gender diversity and little job security. Companies often struggle to attract new talent.

The shortage of talent is also a problem because companies typically do a lackluster job at internal personnel development. The ever-increasing complexity of technology requires continuously updated skill sets for everyone. And that requires investment.

In the coming years, the industry will face formidable recruiting challenges.

Companies must focus on attracting, retaining and developing talent, and establishing a culture of innovation.

However, the current labor shortage also offers a unique opportunity for young people embarking upon a new career.

We need people. People who are young, driven, digitally skilled, and open to innovation.

Fortunately, there is a generation of cyborgs waiting in the wings.

Let’s go get them.

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Steve’s career in architecture, construction and development, always remained focused on the enormous potential and challenge of fully integrated project delivery.

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