Understand The Workflow: Addressing the need for sharp workers

By Jeff Winke

The Associated General Contractors of America released a study of construction firms in the United States. A few key statistics included in their Workforce Shortage Report include:

  • 8 out of 10 construction firms cannot find sufficient qualified employees
  • 19% are investing in labor saving equipment and tools that require smarter workers
  • 82% believe that it will be more difficult to find qualified workers over the next 12 months

“As the U.S.-based construction workforce becomes increasingly thinly spread,” the AGC report states, “owners and managers of construction firms will be required to approach the problem of labor shortage creatively, in order to convert these problems into opportunities. A key to overcoming the labor shortage, in the construction industry, is to invest in current employees to increase their skills, knowledge, and abilities, as well as to support existing employees with labor-saving tools and equipment.”

Clearly, on-going skills and technology training of existing employees can prove to be critical not only for retention but the success of the company.

“The penalty for not keeping current with technology is longer project timelines,” states Ron Oberlander, vice president, Global Professional Services, Topcon Positioning Group, Livermore, California. “Successful training focusses on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.”


With the training emphasis on workflow, employees can develop a broader perspective on construction projects and all that goes into the tasks that culminate in their completion. The emphasis on work processes demonstrates a respect for the intelligence of employees and invites them to think in a partner role, which can strengthen their commitment to the job and the company.

“I’ve completed a couple of training programs conducted by Topcon and am scheduled for another in the next 6 months,” says Jean Poirier, project manager with Warman Excavating & Trenching Ltd., Waldheim, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It is well worth the time; and the cost is inconsequential compared to what I learn. I’m getting trained by unbelievable trainers—seasoned experts with 20 to 30 years of experience with the company. They know the products, the market, and understand the workflow.”


With the strong job economy today, it is sometimes difficult to find talent to fill open positions. A benefit of training and the power of easy-to-use technology means that construction contractors can hire willing workers. They can either send them to instructor-led courses or put them through e-learning-based training. Either way, the knowledge and skills gap can be bridged.

Since every construction project is unique, and may require different technology and solutions, it is important—actually imperative—that workers at all experience levels engage in training regularly to remain up to date.


An example of the interest and commitment to training occurring in the construction industry is what Topcon Positioning Systems is currently doing. The company is investing by building state-of-the-art training facilities in the U.S., Italy, and Japan. 

The new 6-acre training facility in the U.S. is being constructed at the Topcon campus in Livermore, California, and will cover training for construction, geo positioning, and paving. Vertical construction and layout training will include a half-built building for real-world demonstrations. Two state-of-the-art classrooms will be included. The training facilities in Italy and Japan are being built to the same parameters.

“Since we focus heavily on workflow training, our training will mimic live applications that take place at a typical construction site,” Oberlander says. “The main difference is we can focus on the application and training without distractions of a contractor’s live jobsite. We always offer on-location training at the contractor’s jobsite or home office, but we believe that it is important to establish a baseline of education with a contained workflow at our training center.”


Construction contractors struggle with the need to stay current on the latest technology and trends that make their projects more efficient, while attracting and keeping a full workforce in a tight labor market. The answers may be found in training both existing employees and new inexperienced workers on labor-saving technologies with a focus on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.

What do you tell others considering training? Poirier says: “Go for it! There is a 100-percent benefit to training; otherwise, you’re looking at your technology being the world’s most expensive paperweight. Training gave me knowledge and confidence to feel comfortable with the technology. I recently set up a new excavator using a system I had mounted on a different machine. It works great and would have cost me $42,000 to have someone come in and set up and initialize the GPS system on the excavator—all work I did myself.”


Training benefits contractors; it can add knowledge, skills, and the confidence to succeed

About the author

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through jeff_winke@yahoo.com.

Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2019
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