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Attracting Future Construction Workers... in 140 Characters or Less

It seems quixotic to think social media can be the industry’s salvation, but… it can’t hurt.

Mon November 30, 2015 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

In the spring of this year, a Chicago concrete and building materials firm, Ozinga Bros., launched its “Born to Build” ad campaign to celebrate hard-working industry professionals. In England the year before, the UK Contractors Group launched a social media campaign also called “Born to Build” to attract fresh talent into the industry. Are the campaigns working?

U.S. campaigners were encouraged by responses to their initial burst of billboard, TV, radio, print, online and social media promotions and scheduled a second round. And in September, they introduced a game app called “Super Nano Trucks” to educate children about construction trades and to raise awareness of the industry among parents. Super Nano Truck game players can playfully mix concrete, deliver it, and ride other construction equipment.

Meanwhile, Born to Build organizers in England are trying to introduce school-age young people to the building going on around them and to make worker-age young adults “aware of what this great industry has to offer.” Organizers reported that some 1.2 million people were touched by the campaign in the first few days of its launch via video, Twitter, and a website.

British boosters estimate that the industry will need 180,000 new construction workers in the next five years. In the U.S., a million fewer people are employed in construction work today than in 2007 on the eve of the recession. Though many contractors are ready to hire additional qualified workers, applicants aren’t knocking on their doors.

Can “Born to Build” campaigns here and abroad gin up enough bodies to fill all those hard-hat, engineering, and supervisory positions? The rule of thumb is that social media campaigns should begin to produce results in six months, but there is no word on the success of this effort. It seems quixotic to think social media can be the industry’s salvation, but… it can’t hurt.

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