Construction Monkey

Construction Monkey Blog

One of the largest complaints I hear is "the quality of the workforce is not what it used to be".  Whether I am talking to union or non-union, family owned or large business, the message continues to be the same.  Besides each generation believing that they are the best generation, is there any truth to this claim? 

I think so.  I don't have any raw statistics to give an accurate assessment, but from my own experiences and through the experiences of hundreds of industry leaders across the country it seems like a very real problem.  In putting a lot of thought as to what would be causing it, I think I have isolated the most important issue and the good news is we can change it as Contractors.

Why do you go to school?  To learn what to think or how to think?  When I was in college and taking Calculus III it started to become very clear to me that I would never utilize this level of math unless NASA would become my employer.  So what was the point?  It taught me how to systematically solve problems and that there is a logic way to address issues and our observations.  Each of the courses from literature to sociology to chemistry was really teaching me how to think, not what to think.  They could have crammed a lot of memorization techniques and then raw data into my head and I could have passed the tests, but I would be a much weaker student for it.

So how do we deal with education in construction?  Do we tell them what to think or do we teach them how to think?  From apprenticeship to leadership classes, most of the instruction I have been viewing has been force feeding them data.  Think about it, how many craftsmen do you know that can install something to code, but have no idea why they are installing that way except "that is the way I was taught to do it." 

As an industry, we have been so focused on getting people moved to the next level we forgot to teach them how to think.  This creates problems for everyone as it does create lesser craftsmen, superintendents, and managers.  Take a look at your training programs.  Do they teach your folks how to think and not just what to think?  If they don't, I would encourage you to enhance them or make it a personal mission to go out and challenge people to think.  The best people we could hope to have are thinkers with a vast knowledge base.  Then when issues arise (and let's face it we are in construction and issues do arise daily), we will have problem solvers and not just robots that we programmed.

About the Author

Craig Pierce

Craig Pierce has been working in the construction industry for the past 25 years helping subcontractors master their trade. Currently he is President of Atalanta Enterprises which provides consulting services to contractors And software solutions through