Aging Workforce Worries Construction Industry: Construction Firms Are Concerned about How an Aging Workforce Will Affect Business

By Brotherton, Phaedra | Talent Development, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Aging Workforce Worries Construction Industry: Construction Firms Are Concerned about How an Aging Workforce Will Affect Business


Brotherton, Phaedra, Talent Development


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For the construction industry, an aging workforce could mean losing the experienced, older workers that the firms count on to bring new workers up to speed, says Stephen Sweet, a visiting scholar and researcher at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

As part of the "Talent Pressures and Aging Workforce Industry Report Series," researchers at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College examined how an increasingly diverse and aging workforce will affect the talent management practices of 696 firms in the 10 leading sectors of the U.S. economy. The series aims to provide employers with information and recommendations for evaluating the effectiveness of practices in light of the changing demographics.

Of the 58 construction firms surveyed, 50 percent said that the aging workforce would "negatively" or "very negatively" affect their business--a percentage that "was significantly higher than other sectors," says Sweet, an associate professor of sociology at Ithaca College.

"If the respondent said the aging workforce would 'negatively or very negatively affect the organization,' we classified the firm as age-pressured," he says.

According to the report, the major concerns of age-pressured construction firms are recruiting competent job applicants, transferring knowledge to less-experienced employees, and compensating for the low skill levels of new employees. Sweet believes that the concerns over the aging workforce may have to do with transfer of knowledge.

"The construction industry is interesting because of the number of skills learned on the job and transferred from employee to employee," he says. "And if one can anticipate that a large proportion of employees will age out of the workforce, and do so in rapid succession, that could affect the transfer of knowledge from one generation of workers to the next. …

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