How to Recruit and Retain Construction Workers

Mon, Sep 18, 2023 at 8:05AM

Trent Cotney, Partner, Adams and Reese LLP

Every contractor will tell you that the labor shortage is one of the most critical issues facing the construction industry today. This issue has been worrisome for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic magnified the problem. In addition, recent immigration laws have made it even more challenging to secure the workers that jobsites need.

So, how can you go about recruiting workers and then retaining them? In this article, we will consider strategies for hiring the workers you require. In Part Two, we will explore additional ways to keep them.

Targeting Younger Workers

Many young people are unsure of their career path. Some are considering college and trying to determine a major, while others may consider the military or a vocational school. During this critical time in their lives, they may appreciate learning about the construction industry and where they might fit into it. So, consider the following options.

High School Recruiting

Many high school students are pushed to attend college and pursue a degree. While that can be an excellent goal, it is not appropriate for all young people. For some, college can be out of reach due to financial or other concerns; for others, higher education may not be the path they are interested in. Construction can provide a solid, dependable and rewarding career that requires training but not years and years in a classroom. Therefore, it is critical to reach high school students and ensure they know construction work is an option for them.

One way to do that is to partner with high schools in your area. Talk to guidance counselors who know the students. Consider being a speaker for career events and attending career fairs that schools hold each year. When students learn about the work you are doing, it can spark their interest.

Charter schools and high school career academies often have specialized programs in vocational training. If those exist in your community, they can hold promising opportunities for recruitment.

Check for an Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE) Mentor Program in your area. The ACE program was founded in 1994 and has 75 chapters in 38 states. Each year, more than 10,000 students participate in this afterschool program that introduces them to construction and design skills. Upon completion, more than 70 percent enter a college or trades program with an ACE-related focus.

Internship Programs

Many high school and college students could benefit from an internship in the construction industry. This opportunity allows them to get hands-on experience and see if this career suits them.

However, if you choose to offer internships, be sure you follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Essentially, if the arrangement is designed to benefit the student and not the employer, it can be considered an unpaid internship. Some factors to consider in classifying a role as an internship:

Whether there is an expectation of compensation

If the program provides training similar to what the student would experience in an educational environment

If it is tied to the student’s education, perhaps for academic credit

If the program accommodates the student’s school schedule

Whether the program has a specific timeframe during which the student receives training

If the student’s work does not displace the work of paid employees but complements it instead

Whether there is a promise of a paid job once the internship is over.

The primary beneficiary test can be flexible, with no one factor being more important than others. Nevertheless, take time to evaluate your program based on these factors to ensure that you are not required to provide minimum wages and overtime pay.

In addition, be sure you follow child labor laws. Some restrict young people under age 18 from working in specific industries or using certain equipment. You must also ensure that you are in compliance with OSHA standards to protect young workers on the jobsite.

If you can manage all the regulations, internships can provide you with a dependable pool of job candidates.


Offering apprenticeships is a solid path for recruiting and training workers. If you create a Registered Apprenticeship, you provide potential workers with valuable paid training and a nationally recognized credential. The apprenticeships are vetted within each industry and are approved by the Department of Labor (DOL) or a state agency.

Targeting More Seasoned Workers

Recruiting young workers can be a beneficial option for your company but you should also consider strategies for attracting more experienced workers as well. Some may already be working in the construction industry but might be looking for a new employer. Others may be ready for a career change.

Social Media

Trent Cotney, Partner, Adams and Reese LLP

If you are looking for more workers, you might consider using social media to get the word out. Utilize your Instagram, Facebook and other pages to highlight your projects and safe work environment. Explain what sets your company apart and encourage workers to join you.

Staff Referrals

Let your current workers know you want to expand the staff. They may have friends or family who are looking for a new role. You can consider offering incentives to your employees who bring new workers on board.

Community Presence

Make sure you are active in your local community and take every opportunity to attend and speak at civic meetings. Communicate with other businesses and let them know you are hiring. Talk about the training you provide and the options for various career paths. Word of mouth can often be a powerful recruiting tool.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting can be time-consuming, but attracting dedicated workers is critical for the health of your company. Therefore, you must make an effort to get the word out and offer those with varying experience levels an opportunity to excel in construction. Also, be sure to think ahead. Do not hire only for tomorrow or next week; instead, look five years out and plan for your future.


The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Trent Cotney is a Partner and Construction Practice Group Leader at the law firm of Adams and Reese LLP and serves as FRSA General Counsel.

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