Looking For A New Job? How About A Better Career Instead
Restaurant, retail, and hospitality workers can find better jobs in construction
“If you don’t like what you’re doing, then don’t do it,” famed author Ray Bradbury once said.
The coronavirus pandemic ravaged the U.S. economy and caused it to plunge into recession in February 2020. The Brookings Institution reports that nearly 9.5 million jobs were lost between the onset of the pandemic and February 2021. Fortunately, the economy has rebounded, is stronger than it was pre-COVID-19, and economists predict that the recovery will continue through the remainder of the year and into 2022. Despite the economic upswing, many industries, including the restaurant, retail, hospitality, and construction sectors, are facing labor shortages. But here is the thing for both passive and active job seekers to remember: In contrast to the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries, construction jobs are reliable, and pay well. For reference, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a construction worker on average earns $14.63 more per hour than a restaurant, retail, or hospitality employee. Construction jobs also offer significant growth opportunities.
“You can earn a great living while you learn. If you have the desire to learn multiple crafts, we’ll teach you multiple crafts,” Michael Bellaman, the president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, said. “Our members invested $1.3 billion last year in upskilling their existing workforce.”
Labor Shortages In The Restaurant, Retail, And Hospitality Industries
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries were experiencing labor shortages. However, the situation has been exacerbated and nearly 650,000 workers quit the retail sector in April alone. Many disenchanted retail workers have cited low wages, COVID-19 risks, zero advancement opportunities, and harassment from customers as reasons why they’re seeking new careers. Joblist polled approximately 13,000 job seekers and found that 60 percent of them would not consider working a hospitality position. Of the 60 percent, 37 percent cited poor wages, 20 percent pointed to lack of benefits, and 16 percent mentioned inflexible scheduling as their reasons for shunning the hospitality sector.
“My life isn’t worth a dead-end job,” Aislinn Potts, a former aquatic specialist at a pet store, told the Washington Post.
The New York Times reported that, in 2017, the average pay for full-time retail workers was less than $33,000 per year. To attract employees, and separate itself from other industries battling staffing crises, the average hourly pay for nonmanagers in the restaurant sector topped $15 in May. Regardless of the pay increase, restaurants across America are still severely understaffed. As with the retail and hospitality sectors, poor wages, and the physical and mental demands associated with working in restaurants have been pinpointed as reasons why the industry is struggling to secure a full workforce. Michael Dolan is the corporate executive chef at Tinton Falls, New Jersey-headquartered Mcloone’s Restaurants. Dolan, who, among other responsibilities, supervises the kitchen staff at Mcloone’s Pier House in Long Branch, New Jersey, detailed his troubles finding manpower.
“I think that people are over the restaurant industry,” Dolan said. “A generation grew up watching the Food Network and thought that they could be the next TV star. These individuals quickly realize that it’s not as glamorous as they thought. You are on your feet between 10 and 12 hours per day. It’s hot. You’re going to roast in a kitchen that exceeds 100 degrees. You’re going to get bad burns and cuts. There’s a lot of pressure. The money isn’t great. You have to work nights and holidays. If you get into the restaurant industry, you better love it or you are going to be looking for a new career quite quickly.”
Mark Molina is the general manager of Orlando, Florida-based Tavistock Restaurant Collection. Molina echoed Dolan’s sentiments and discussed his difficulties in hiring qualified workers.
“With the reopening of restaurants post-pandemic, the increase in demand for quality employees has caused the labor market to be spread very thin,” Molina, who runs the Tavistock Restaurant Collection’s location in Wayland, Massachusetts, said. “The pressure on employers to look in the mirror and provide better wages, better training, better mentoring, and provide a better reason to come to work every day has become very real. Some have chosen not to return to an industry that is very demanding of time, mental and physical energy, and sometimes your very sanity.”
Labor Shortages In The Construction Industry Spell Opportunities for Restaurant, Retail, & Hospitality Workers
The coronavirus pandemic caused the construction industry to come to a halt for a few months in 2020. However, unlike many other industries, construction was ultimately deemed essential, and projects were allowed to continue. Regrettably, the sector lost more than 1 million workers during that short period of downtime. As of June, although the United States Department of Labor says that 80 percent of construction employees have resumed working, the sector remains down roughly 238,000 workers from pre-COVID-19 levels.
“We’re losing more people than we’re bringing into the industry,” Matthew Schimenti, owner of Schimenti Construction Company, said. “People made decisions in their lives to leave the region and the industry [during the pandemic]. It was like putting a puzzle back together to restart where we literally called a timeout.”
How The Construction Industry Can Gain More Qualified Workers
At many high schools across America, guidance counselors push the notion that a college degree is the only path to success. Unfortunately, that notion is outdated and flat-out inaccurate. The average age for workers in the construction industry is 43. Hence, with an aging workforce, now is the time for people in the 18- to 40-year-old age group who are tired of working in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries to contemplate a career in construction. This is especially true because the vast majority of C-level construction executives are willing to teach newcomers and prepare them to excel in the industry.
“We want to go out to every area where we can attract top talent. Once we get them into the industry, we’re educating and upskilling,” Bellaman said.
False preconceived notions notwithstanding, women are “top talent” who are entirely capable of flourishing as contractors. To validate this assertion, the gender pay gap in the construction industry is virtually nonexistent, with women earning an average of 99.1 percent of what men earn.
Christy Crook became one of the few women in the U.S. to own a masonry company when she founded Thornton, Colorado-based Phoenix Masonry Inc. in August 2010. Phoenix Masonry specializes in commercial projects and has contributed to multiple noteworthy projects across the Centennial State, including Wadsworth Storage, the pedestrian bridges at Fox and Federal, and the Stanley Marketplace. In addition to an impressive project portfolio, Crook’s staff grew 30 percent between 2017 and 2019. Despite such exponential growth, Crook is always interested in acquiring more talented workers, particularly women.
Crook, an active member of the American General Contractors Association, Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute, and the National Association of Women in Construction, is outspoken in her beliefs that construction and masonry workers often enjoy sustainable, long-term careers. Thus, now is the optimal time for jaded and disillusioned restaurant, retail, and hospitality workers to seek a more rewarding livelihood. Contact Phoenix Masonry today for a more fulfilling tomorrow.