Leaders in the construction industry have been grappling with a persistent labor shortage for years and veterans may be the solution the industry needs. Military talent brings a lot to the table, from a proven work ethic to invaluable skills and hands-on experience. Yet, they remain a largely untapped talent pool in many industries.
Construction is a fantastic match for veterans, though, with 15.5% choosing to pursue careers in construction after leaving military service. They have the right balance of skills, learning ability, and leadership qualities to fill the construction skills gap between entry-level laborer positions and top-tier management and design roles.
One challenge that many veterans face while transitioning back to civilian life is finding a career that they are interested in that also fits the skills they currently have. Construction jobs are perfect for veterans in this regard because they offer a teamwork-focused work environment that values technical experience. While veterans may not have the exact skills that construction employers are seeking for all roles within the skills gap, they are likely to have related skills and hands-on training.
Military positions require extensive training, even after service members have moved from Basic Training to active duty. Veterans are adept at learning new things quickly and most will already have experience with computers, complex machinery, and often technical and crafting skills, as well. All branches of the military utilize advanced weaponry, vehicles, and equipment, with some service members in roles that specialize in maintaining and operating that technology. Veterans from these roles may have experience in welding, electrical repair, and equipment maintenance. Technical roles in the military can provide intensive, hands-on experience in valuable skill areas that are exactly what the construction industry needs.
Whether they spent their active-duty time in a technical role or otherwise, veterans are well-equipped to learn the aptitudes required to thrive in positions in construction’s skills gap. Their experience using technology in the field will make them invaluable team members as the construction industry integrates more technology in the years ahead.
Veterans of all service backgrounds are excellent candidates for construction roles due to the skills and values instilled in all who serve in the military. They have a strong work ethic and sense of self-discipline, refined from years of active service. One of veterans’ most highly valued skills is their excellent teamwork abilities. They are also highly effective in more independent, autonomous roles, though, due to their proficiency at following directions.
Among the most valuable construction skills that veterans possess is attention to safety. In the military, safety and awareness of one’s surroundings are crucial to success and survival. This experience is invaluable, especially considering most of the top causes of work hazards in construction are preventable with the proper care. Veterans’ focus on following workplace safety protocols will ensure that construction employers don’t have to worry about veterans being responsible on the job. If they were able to perform well in their military roles, it is a safe bet that they will be among the safest workers on-site on construction projects.
Additionally, veterans make excellent candidates for roles in construction’s managerial skills gap. Leadership is one of the most transferable skills learned in the military, picked up across branches, roles, and ranks. Military careers often train analytical and logistical thinking skills, which are vital for success in managerial civilian jobs. Learning these skills hands-on, often with large groups of people, vast quantities of supplies, and fluctuating circumstances means that veterans will be versatile and adaptable leaders with high tolerance to stress.
With experience like that, it should come as no surprise that veterans are two times more likely to own a business than civilians, with 11.4% of construction companies in the U.S. being owned by veterans. Case studies on veterans in construction careers emphasize these leadership skills further with real-life examples of veterans thriving in managerial construction jobs. Among the key takeaways from one 2016 study is that technical skills can be taught, but the seasoned leadership experience that veterans have is far more difficult to train and thus a highly valuable capability for construction companies.
A 2021 study on hiring trends for “hidden workers” and untapped talent pools found that the key reason why veterans are unemployed is “employer actions.” This indicates that if construction employers want to tap into the wealth of skills and experience that veterans have to offer, they need to prioritize meeting the needs of veterans.
A great way for construction employers to get started is by researching military life, language, and culture. Veterans, like all employee segments, want to feel understood by the people they work for. This mutual understanding is key to building trust and loyalty with veteran employees. A strong knowledge base will also enable employers to work with veterans to find the specific role where their goals and skills can best be realized and utilized.
Another highly beneficial step that construction employers can take in veteran hiring initiatives is establishing or funding training and transition programs. Even veterans with technical backgrounds may need some niche training in order to smoothly transition into civilian construction roles, particularly the skilled craft roles currently in need of talented new hires. A training program of some kind will go a long way toward supporting veteran employees and may even help convince them to try out a career in construction. Veterans moving into managerial or leadership positions may benefit from transition programs as well, as it takes time to adjust from military to civilian life.
Construction companies that don’t have the infrastructure or resources to run their own veteran training and transition programs can always research pre-existing organizations, such as Helmets to Hardhats, that help veterans begin construction careers.
The skills gap in the construction industry contains a broad variety of jobs, but they all have the same thing in common: the knowledge, training, and talent required is difficult to find and highly valuable. Veterans may be the answer to filling these roles. This segment holds an unusually high concentration of excellent candidates for roles in the skills gap, whether they are technical or managerial. The best part is, offering more jobs to veterans will help improve the lives of service members and their families every day, especially in the collaborative and welcoming construction industry.
about the author
Emily Newton is an industrial writer who specializes in covering how technology is disrupting industrial sectors. She’s also the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized where she covers innovations in industry, construction, and more.