Modular construction: A solution to construction labour shortage

Spain, as well as other EU countries, is suffering from labour shortages in the construction industry, according to trade unions and companies in this area.

As part of the solution to this problem, representatives of the sector propose raising salaries, improving working conditions, and searching for foreign labour, mainly from Latin America and Africa.

The construction labour shortage makes it increasingly difficult to fill available vacancies, which leads to higher construction labour costs, among other things.

In this scenario, offsite or industrialized construction offers an alternative to improve employment conditions. Not only does it allow a significant reduction in costs, project development, and completion times, but it also facilitates and enables the inclusion of female labour, while offering better working conditions in the workplace.

The latter is thanks to the fact that they are largely developed in controlled environments that offer greater health, safety, and comfort for workers.

In this sense, leading companies in prefabricated modules such as Hydrodiseño try to do their part to improve the working conditions of workers in the sector.

In this article, we will tell you about the challenges the construction industry faces concerning the shortage of skilled labour and how modular construction can solve – at least in part – this problem.

The skilled construction labour shortage: A global problem

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about 60% of contractors report difficulty finding qualified workers. At the same time, two-thirds report having difficulty meeting deadlines as a result of this labour shortage.

This has led many companies in the sector to miss important opportunities and face a series of problems that have slowed their growth.

On the other hand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, only 14% of workers in this sector are women. And the positions they occupy are mainly in the areas of sales, finance, and administration.

In this context, the modular construction market provides an alternative to this labour shortage in construction, mainly because it enables the inclusion of female labour in the sector.

So, it is evident that women represent an unexplored and potential talent pool, which creates an opportunity to fill the existing gap in terms of skilled labour.

Women in construction industry

What is happening in Europe?

Countries such as Germany, Portugal, and Spain, experience a similar situation regarding construction labour shortage.

For example, in Portugal, with the 2008 crisis, there was a massive emigration of labour to other destinations in Europe, and currently, that labour force has not returned. This is mainly due to the poor working conditions, and low salaries received by workers in this industry in the country.

This situation is evidenced in a large part of the European community as well. In Spain, out of almost 3 million construction workers in 2008, more than half turned to the tourism sector. This leaves a significant gap in skilled labour, increasing its cost in construction.

How to overcome labour shortage in construction

As we already mentioned, modular construction offers an alternative to satisfy the labour shortage in this sector. This alternative not only saves time and money but also offers better working conditions.

The construction of modular buildings took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, In part because of their ability to quickly meet urgent needs of affordable housing and healthcare facilities, among other things.

This type of construction implies that several parts of the building are prefabricated off-site. This means that the process is carried out in facilities with a controlled environment, greater safety, and better working conditions.

While for many years modular buildings had a bad reputation, today this perception is changing. Thanks to technological advances and the development of new and more efficient construction processes, modular construction is beginning to enjoy a good reputation.

Today, this type of construction offers not only high quality but also great flexibility in terms of design. This is very important for both builders and customers.

Additionally, modular construction improves the speed of delivery of the finished product and cost savings. At the same time, and due to the critical labour shortage in the industry, modular construction also offers the possibility of attracting skilled labour by offering better working conditions.

Why does modular construction impact workforce development in the industry?

Modular construction has great potential to offer workers of any gender, ethnicity, and culture the opportunity to participate in this sector.

Working in a controlled environment, with regular schedules, climate control, increased training, and permanent supervision and assistance is a more seductive combo for potential workers than what the traditional construction sector currently offers.

Therefore, it offers a level of predictability and working conditions that provides a more appealing prospect for working in the industry.

What are the keys elements necessary so modular construction can attract the workforce that is not currently seeking careers in the construction industry?

First of all, companies in the sector must provide a work environment that, aside from the already mentioned benefits, offers a hospitable work environment, with good planning, and integrated, and empowered teams.

The objective is to ensure that the achievement of the projects is efficient and profitable for the company, but also, to mitigate risks and improve working conditions for workers. So, a productive, protected, and healthy working environment is key.

Also, employees must feel confident and comfortable enough to report hostile behaviour when they experience it.

Modular construction: An opportunity to alleviate labour shortages in the construction industry

As we have seen, modular construction reduces the requirement for “brute force” to perform work on-site, opening a door to diversity in the industry.

Taking advantage of this change and making the necessary adjustments to support the growth of this industry must be a commitment of every player in the industry.

The potential for developing skilled trades paves the way for including a wider talent pool, in addition to broadening diversity, and boosting inclusion in the construction industry.

This greater diversity of talent offers not only great growth potential for the modular construction industry but also an alternative to alleviate the general labour shortage problem in construction.