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A Sales and Marketing Approach to Workforce Development

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Sales + Marketing

A Sales and Marketing Approach to Workforce Development

Want to find new skilled workers? Home builders should consider engaging their sales and marketing teams to take a fresh look and approach to recruiting and retention

By Mollie Elkman and Thaïs Cuffy April 1, 2022
Girl drawing house on pavement with chalk
Children need to see that careers in construction are something to be celebrated. | Photo: Sergey Novikov / stock.adobe.com
This article first appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Pro Builder.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) estimates the construction industry needs to add 2.2 million new workers by 2025 to keep pace with demand. And our industry isn’t immune to the Great Resignation: 181,000 skilled workers quit their construction jobs in December 2021 alone—leaving builders in a tough position to maintain (much less increase) production.

In any crisis, you need to deal with the greatest and most immediate threat first. Of course, that’s going to be recruitment of new workers, and right now. But imagine what could be accomplished if we stopped looking at workforce development as a challenge at the local level and addressed it as a national, even global, awareness initiative.

New-home sales and marketing professionals are experts at maximizing reach, building awareness and excitement, and inspiring action. It’s the foundation of the job: Get a message in front of the right people and get them to act. We thrive in a crisis and are proactive by nature; we see a challenge and immediately try to solve it.


Reshaping the Narrative for Careers in Construction

So, how do we break this cycle to ensure we don’t continue to face the same workforce issues for generations? We have to reshape the narrative.

Careers in home building are just as rewarding, stable, and in-demand as careers achieved through a two- or four-year college education. We need to share this message and celebrate it in the most public way.

One approach that’s just scratching the surface and is the goal of The House That She Built initiative is to change the conversation before career-based bias even forms—which is at around 4 or 5 years old!

Inspired by a true story and designed and written for that age group, The House That She Built is a children’s book that educates young readers about the people and skills involved in building a home. One by one, kids learn about the architect, framer, roofer, and many others who contribute their individual skills to complete the collective project: a new home.

Careers in home building are just as rewarding, stable, and in-demand as careers achieved through a two- or four-year college education. We need to share this message and celebrate it in the most public way.

This initiative is spreading across the country, with recent interest from the NAHB workforce development team to share the book globally through the International Housing Association.

Therefore, a long-term, sustainable approach to workforce development must start with a proactive approach to the youngest audience and provide answers to these questions:

  • What job opportunities does the residential construction industry offer?
  • Who can fill these jobs?
  • What does it take to be successful?


Four Answers for Construction Industry Workforce Development 

A sales and marketing approach answers these questions in four ways.

1. Tell the stories of people working in construction

We need to tell the stories of people working in construction, particularly those in underrepresented groups, such as women. We can do this through a range of outward-facing initiatives, such as books like The House That She Built; in classrooms; by participating in career days or events like those conceived, hosted, and shared by Build My Future, a national workforce development initiative; and by using social media to share and engage with photos and videos.

Stories generate conversations and conversations cultivate curiosity. It is so important that every child sees someone they identify with representing the trades, and that has to come from within the industry. That’s all of us!

Bottom line: People of all ages connect with stories, especially when they are real.

2. Shift the mindset about the many career paths available

Generations of Americans have been told a four-year college degree is the primary (maybe the only) path to career and financial success. That thinking leaves little room for other paths, such as trade schools or learning on the job.

We can and should challenge parents and educators to examine their biases by presenting facts and figures demonstrating that young people can make a great living by learning a trade, not to mention having the opportunity to own their own business, manage a team of employees, and help families find safe, affordable housing.

Bottom line: There are many career paths, and the construction industry offers several that can result in financial and personal success.

3. Present modern images of construction jobs

Construction jobs need an image refresh. Every person on a jobsite is important. Building a home is a beautiful example of individuals with unique skills and careers coming together for a collective goal.

When we focus on the skills behind these jobs and present STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) and construction careers early in a student’s education, we are helping to build children’s self-esteem and showing that taking this career path is something to be celebrated.

From the plumber to the architect, it takes years of hands-on learning and specialization to achieve the skills necessary to do these jobs; jobs that our country, and our infrastructure, can’t do without.

With the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure deal, combined with the Build Back Better Act, aiming to add 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years to rebuild and improve our nation’s roads and bridges, among other infrastructure projects, skilled construction jobs are set to be in high demand.

Bottom line: Working with our hands is important and noble work and is the backbone of our country.

4. Tap underrepresented groups

We need to recruit future workers through the most obvious underrepresented community: women! Women make up just 3% of the on-site construction workforce in the housing industry, yet pre-pandemic, nearly 50% of the nation’s workforce consisted of women. That’s a disconnect we can’t allow to continue.

There is huge opportunity for women to acquire the training and skills necessary to build a home. Additionally, women in construction earn 97 cents for every dollar a man earns (compared with 80 cents in other industries—betcha didn’t know that!).

The House That She Built is currently partnering with the Girl Scouts on a patch-earning program focused on construction. Such programs benefit the girls, our industry, and the economy.

Similarly, there are great opportunities for careers in construction for people of color (also significantly underrepresented in our industry), ex-military, and those in need of a second chance.

Bottom line: Careers in construction are for everyone.

Fresh Takes for Construction Workforce Development

It’s time to take a new approach to workforce development, one that requires action from all of us. When something is working, such as Build My Future or The House That She Built, we need to share it and implement it. We must think globally rather than locally to ensure the future success of our industry.

The U.S. housing market is poised for sustained growth, so let’s do everything we can now to bolster the workforce over the next five to six years, and at the same time work diligently to position residential construction as the dynamic path to career and financial success we know it is for generations to come.

Thaïs Cuffy is the content strategist at Group Two, where she helps organizations drive brand awareness, boost web traffic, increase lead conversion, and strengthen customer loyalty. Learn more at grouptwo.com.

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Written By

Mollie Elkman is owner and president of Group Two, a full-service marketing partner for home builders based in Philadelphia. She is the author of the children’s book, The House That She Built, scheduled for release in September 2021 by NAHB BuilderBooks in collaboration with The Professional Women in Building Council and NAHB’s workforce development team. Elkman also is the co-host and co-creator of the “Building Perspective” podcast and a member of Pro Builder’s Forty Under 40 class of 2012. Got a question? Send it to Mollie at melkman@grouptwo.com.


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