We talk with experts about how to fill the shortage of skilled professionals in the construction sector to ensure a bright future for the industry.
At YIT, the response to these challenges includes cooperation with education institutions and retraining, among other things.
The general trend in the construction industry has been positive over the past few years. Urbanisation has increased construction activity, particularly in major cities. In the Helsinki metropolitan area, significant investments including the architecturally impressive Oodi and the high-rise Trigoni project have created a need for new kinds of specialised competencies.
The high level of activity in the construction sector has also had an impact on employment. According to a recent report by the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT (04/19), employment in the construction industry reached a record high last year. With 30,000 new jobs created in the industry during the past four years, the unemployment rate has fallen to an all-time low.
However, the positive trends in the industry give rise to a challenge: the demand for skilled professionals exceeds the supply. There is a particular shortage of experienced and skilled white-collar employees, such as foremen, designers and project engineers. Similarly, there is a need for specialists who possess new know-how related to software and Building Information Modelling, for example. At YIT, the shortage of skilled professionals is particularly evident in the business premises and infrastructure segments. The situation is not made any easier by the fact that construction activity is focused on cities, which may create the need for long commutes or relocation.
“The Finnish population is ageing, and the level of employment-based immigration is quite low. At the same time, construction industry contracts are becoming larger and more complex, which requires greater competence. The challenge we are facing right now is ensuring competence 5, 10 and 15 years from now,” says Lauri Pakkanen, Head of Public Affairs at the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries.
Greater competence through cooperation
According to Pakkanen, there are a lot of positives in the current situation. The number of graduates of construction-related degree programmes in Finnish universities of applied sciences has doubled over the past decade, while the number of graduates has remained unchanged or even declined in other areas of technical studies. Pakkanen suggests that vocational training being perceived as unappealing is a myth: the number of applicants is almost as high in vocational schools as upper secondary schools.
As indicated above, there is a sufficient influx of new talent into the industry. The shortages challenging the sector are more to do with experienced professionals. For Pakkanen, the solution to the challenge goes beyond increasing the number of students in construction-related degree programmes. He believes that increasing employment-based immigration and the graduation rate of higher education are also essential. When it comes to ensuring the competence of new graduates, Pakkanen would like to see the business sector take a stronger role:
“Companies should increasingly strive to engage in strategic cooperation with education providers. It is an effective way to influence teaching content and the profile of new graduates.”
One concrete example of competence development through cooperation is the large construction-industry campus soon to be completed in Myllypuro, which will be used by Helsinki Vocational College and Adult Institute as well as Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. According to Pakkanen, the campus will create opportunities for developing occupational safety training and cooperation between students and their future superiors, among other things.
Training and on-the-job learning as effective tools
YIT has responded to the challenges related to the shortage of skilled professionals in various ways. Focusing on people who are looking to change their field of work is one solution. For example, in conversion training organised by Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, the university-educated people representing various fields were quickly retrained to be master builders. In majority of construction-related universities of applied sciences and in Tampere University, YIT has organised five-credit YIT Studies modules for interested students.
“Instead of identical engineers, we need diversity and wide-ranging competence. For example, through YIT Studies, we have found really good people who were studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration for traditional site engineer roles,” says Timo Piili, Head of Group Recruiting & Resourcing at YIT.
Skilled professionals can also be found inside the organisation. Blue-collar YIT employees have the opportunity to pursue various joint training programmes to obtain additional qualifications to work as a foreman, for example. YIT also offers internal trainings for those dreaming of a career as a superior.
In addition to training, practical competence is also accumulated through work. Being open-minded and enthusiastic about trying new things is a core element of YIT’s identity. The extensive alliance projects that a large construction company is involved in provide employees with opportunities to try various working methods and approaches. There is a lot of internal mobility at YIT, and a significant proportion of employees have found their way into the organisation through trainee programmes, for example.
All above-mentioned development opportunities increase and support well-being at work.
“People need challenges. We strive to offer more challenging roles for motivated employees by supporting on-the-job-learning in smart ways,” Piili explains.
The industry has strong appeal
The construction industry is appealing for a number of reasons. It is an industry where people get to see the results of their work in a very concrete manner. In your work, you can influence the built environment, which makes your work more meaningful. Much of the work is done in projects, which keeps things varied and interesting. Teamwork and problem-solving motivate many people, and there is a wide range of potential career paths in the industry. Experienced experts are happy to share what they know with younger professionals.
A large company such as YIT presents tremendous opportunities for development and improving professional competence. This is also supported by the interesting construction projects the Group has in the pipeline for the next few years.
“We have been able to offer — and will continue to offer — some very cool opportunities in our projects, for instance, with urban development, new construction and renovation projects. There’s Trigoni, Helsinki Garden, Jokeri Light Rail, Accountor Tower, the Main Building of the University of Helsinki, Käärmetalo and many other unique opportunities. There are plenty of motivating showcases there for many professionals and competences,” Piili says.
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For further information, please contact:
Timo Piili, Head of Group Recruiting & Resourcing, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)40 573 3254, email@example.com
Johanna Savolainen, Communications Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)44 305 4594, firstname.lastname@example.org
YIT is the largest Finnish and significant North European construction company. We develop and build apartments and living services, business premises and entire areas. We are also specialised in demanding infrastructure construction and paving. Together with our customers, our nearly 10,000 professionals are creating more functional, attractive and sustainable cities and environments. We work in 11 countries: Finland, Russia, Scandinavia, Baltic Countries, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The new YIT was born when over 100-year-old YIT Corporation and Lemminkäinen Corporation merged on February 1, 2018. Our restated pro forma revenue for 2018 was approximately EUR 3.2 billion. YIT Corporation's share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy. www.yitgroup.com