The recent Association Leadership Meeting of 40+ SMACNA chapter contractor leaders, including all five of our Premier Partners, was more like a mini-focus group of construction industry leadership. I walked away with a pretty good idea of concerns and exciting opportunities facing SMACNA members nationwide. I’d like to share some of them with you.
Workforce shortages—we are no exception
Recruiting, training, and retaining employees continue to be the greatest challenge in all sectors of the industry, and ours is no exception. Attracting qualified apprentices and developing solid foremen in the face of aging field talent will require innovative applications of social media techniques and fast-track concentrated training.
Efficient project planning and execution—applying new technology tools and practices—is helping to offset labor shortages, and that trend will continue. Also, the continued acceptance of low-bid contract awards versus negotiated work and a collaborative approach delays innovation, results in wasteful re-work and impairs productivity.
Recruiting—time to get creative
To solve the recruiting problem, we learned that some non-traditional education and recruiting efforts by SMACNA members, chapters, and our labor partners are underway. Contractors and their labor partners are reaching out to middle and high schools, both students and counselors, to educate them about the benefits of working in a trade. Shop tours with lunch and candid question and answer sessions are popular. Working directly with Helmets to Hardhats, the organization helps place veterans into construction industry jobs, doesn’t necessarily provide the youngest pool for apprentices, but the applicants are well-qualified and have those soft skills often lacking in other applicants.
Predictions of the future—energy and IoT
Some of SMACNA’s Premier Partners shared their industry market research and predictions about how the industry of the future is going to look and what it will take for us to get there.
Titus noted its product offerings will look different in the future, particularly with integrating technology into almost all products such as lighting integrated into diffusers. This is making the product more interesting to younger workers. They believe a softer management style for millennials is needed. Titus is shifting its training to use virtual reality and 3D technology to “get inside” systems and products to make them appear more interesting and cutting edge.
Daikin stated that energy, energy efficiency, and climate change have been driving their worldwide business development. They believe standards cannot be met with equipment only but will require whole building design and operation. They believe the Internet of Things is going to be hugely impactful and that in the future control systems will be completely different. Daikin research says IoT for HVAC will be a $26-billion-dollar market by the year 2020 with 9 percent annual growth thereafter. The desire for improved indoor air quality will be an opportunity for contractors and equipment manufacturers.
They said that the power of social media should not be underestimated, if used strategically. It can make any business seem cool. Plus, earlier engagement of potential workforce was encouraged. For example, we must let kids see, feel and touch, and manipulate things—tools and equipment—as early as middle school, so that they see the businesses for these products in a better light.
Strategic Planning—yields a focused organization
SMACNA is working on updating its strategic plan. Once the national plan is complete, hopefully our chapters and fellow contractors can use some of the findings in their own plans. Chapters should consider integrating elements of the national plan locally for an industry-wide effort to achieve our important objectives.
It is a well-known fact that a focused organization is more meaningful to its members and a focused organization energizes the leadership on all levels.