Closing the Worker Gap: Trade Schools Seeing Higher Enrollments

5 Tips to Keep Your Construction Project as Efficient as PossibleA construction firm relies on skilled craftspeople for success, but workers like these have been hard to come by in recent years. With trade schools gaining popularity, however, the outlook for construction worker recruitment stands to improve.

Seeking a Promising Future

The high cost of a four-year college education and limited job opportunities for graduates have left many wary of taking the traditional college route. These concerns, combined with the after-effects of a shaky economy, are attracting an increasing number of students to trade-based careers that offer stability and a solid income.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that the number of certificates and associate degrees awarded in construction and related fields rose by 67.8 percent between 2000 and 2012. That’s more than 20 percent faster than the growth in four-year college enrollment during that time.

Job security isn’t the only motivation for choosing career and technical education (CTE). Many students choose a trade after discovering an aptitude in their high school technical classes or discussing options with their guidance counselor to find something they’re truly passionate about. The growing prestige of trade schools and apprenticeships, thanks to their graduates’ success, also draws students.

More Workers with In-Demand Skills

The real challenge in construction worker recruitment comes in finding enough carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other tradespeople with advanced skills and hands-on experience. These are things even someone with a four-year general contractor degree may lack due to these programs’ emphasis on business skills such as cost estimating and job scheduling over actual construction skills.

By focusing on the practical skills sought after in today’s construction market, trade schools are filling in the gap. Courses offered are firmly grounded in the STEM (science, technology, engineering. and math) disciplines. Students gain proficiency with cutting-edge technology such as software programs used to model electrical and plumbing systems. Beyond this, trade schools help students develop soft skills such as adaptability and conflict resolution that make them valuable team members.

For more tips on construction worker recruitment, contact us at Construction Monitor.

The Coming Micro-Apartment Boom

modular construction
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Urban living appeals to many, but it has long had a reputation for high rent and relatively small spaces. A new trend in urban apartment living is emerging that not only accepts the notion of tiny living, but thrives on it. Micro-apartments are becoming more common, and more popular, in some of the more appealing urban areas around the country.

Seattle, Washington has emerged as the vanguard in the micro-apartment boom, according to reporter Susan Kelleher, writing in the Seattle Times. The city boasts several thousand micro-apartment units where tenants can find a comfortable, though tiny, space of their own in the heart of the city.

Micro-apartments appeal to those who want to live alone, but still be able to afford a dwelling space in a thriving urban area. Averaging 200 to 400 square feet, micro-apartments offer compact quarters for young professionals, older residents who want to downsize, and others who prefer to live without being encumbered by a large accumulation of stuff.

Owners and investors see micro-apartments as a way to increase revenues by maximizing the amount charged per square foot of living space.

The Seattle micro-apartments have been used as examples for construction of small living spaces in other cities across the country. Des Moines, Iowa, for example, has experienced a growing interest in micro-apartment living, noted Patrick Clark in an article on the BloombergBusiness Web site.

Micro-apartments, despite their benefits for tenants and owners, don’t always have the support of the communities where they’re being built. In Seattle, for example, neighbors of some micro-apartment buildings have objected to their presence and have successfully managed to curtail the construction of more dwellings of that type.

However, the momentum in Seattle and elsewhere is largely against those established residents who may not approve of the idea of a densely occupied building full of micro-apartments.

Construction Monitor provides the most up-to-date information on trends and developments throughout the construction industry. Contact us today for more information on the increasing interest in micro-apartments and how this trend is expected to affect the housing sector in the coming months and years.

3 Tips for Keeping Your Construction Firm Running Smoothly

Spending on Construction Across U.S downWhen you manage a construction firm, your company’s profits, legal standing, and reputation all depend on your ability to coordinate the dozens of elements involved in each project.  The occasional bump in the road is inevitable, but by following a few practical managing tips for construction firms, you can keep those bumps small.

Nurture your relationships

When you have good relationships with your subcontractors, suppliers, and property owners, you will enjoy more open communication and collaboration.  Those involved in the project will be more likely to bring up minor issues before they become major problems and have more patience if the project hits a snag.  Be a friend by reaching out to pass along useful information or valuable opportunities.  To ensure no one who approaches your company leaves frustrated, teach all your staff the basics of supportive customer service and instruct them in how to handle complaints.

Take time with your contracts

Clear wording goes a long way toward preventing disputes and legal action.  Review your standard contract and make sure it contains clauses designed to protect you, such as entire agreement and non-waiver/exercise of rights clauses.  Often overlooked are escalation clauses.  These address situations in which a subcontractor can pass increased costs to the general contractor, or the GC can pass them to the owner.  Without these clauses, cost increases can eat into your profits.  Thoroughly review the contract with your client before it is finalized.  If there is any confusion or hesitation on the client’s part, be willing to re-negotiate and draw up a new contract.

Switch to managerial accounting

Financial accounting helps keep you on track with your taxes, but does nothing to advance your business.  Managerial accounting focuses on collecting financial information that allows you to make better decisions about how to run your company.  It involves tracking multiple metrics, including controllable and non-controllable costs, variable costs, and opportunity costs.  The information gleaned helps you assess your performance, moderate your risks, and strategize for future growth.

For more managing tips for construction firms, contact us at Construction Monitor.

The Sharing Economy and Heavy Equipment: Is Leasing Right For Your Company?

construction equipment
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For many small to medium-sized construction companies, it makes more sense to rent some types of heavy equipment when it’s needed rather than purchasing the equipment outright. A growing trend in American commerce, that of the “sharing economy,” has the potential to significantly change heavy equipment leasing and the way construction companies acquire and use the equipment they need.

Leasing companies and rental agencies have been the traditional solution to the challenge of finding and acquiring the right equipment when it’s needed. As commercial entities, these businesses must operate on a model that allows them to generate a profit on the items they lease. Even if leasing costs are relatively high, construction companies can still benefit financially from short-term leases instead of high-dollar purchases.

The concept of the sharing economy, however, has the potential to disrupt the traditional supply chain used in equipment rental and leasing.

The sharing economy approach allows almost anyone who owns a valuable commodity to make that commodity available to others for a price. For example, companies have emerged that allow private individuals to make their personal vehicles available for transportation, bypassing traditional taxies. Others offer temporary lodging in individuals’ homes, eliminating the need for a hotel room. Often these services are less expensive than comparable services from commercial companies, and are easier to acquire through specialized software and online connections.

For construction companies, this may lead to leasing equipment from other builders rather than from a specialized agency. Construction firms with heavy equipment sitting idle can generate revenue while smaller companies can find necessary equipment at a lower price. Services that match equipment owners with companies that need that equipment have already started to emerge, according to reporter James R. Hagerty in the Economist.

Industry professionals turn to Construction Monitor for the latest news on important trends that will affect how business will get done and projects will be completed. Contact us today for more information on heavy equipment leasing and how the concepts of the sharing economy are likely to transform how companies purchase, lease, and use the equipment they need.

5 Onboarding Tips for Construction Firms

Your firm goes through a lot to find reliable, skilled employees, so the onboarding process isn’t the time to drop the ball. A few simple, proven onboarding tips for construction firms will help you smoothly integrate your new hires.

Share Your Vision

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When your employees understand your firm’s founding vision, they’ll not only remember the rules and safety regulations better, but also be equipped to make good choices even when no clear guidelines are available. Ideally, the company owner should sit down with new hires to explain what’s unique about the firm’s approach to construction, the traits of a good employee, and the kind of experience clients should have interacting with them.

Take Time With the Employee Manual

In addition to giving new hires a copy of the employee manual to peruse at home, an administrative worker should go over the manual with them. A new employee is likely to be overwhelmed by all the new information and have more than a few questions. Someone taking the time to review the manual in detail and check the employee’s understanding ensures no critical information escapes notice.

Pair Them Up

For the first week, or at minimum the first day, pair each new employee with an experienced employee and let them work together. Have the new employee first observe their partner completing a task, then the partner observes the new employee doing the same thing. After this, the two should hold a feedback session.

Check in Weekly

Schedule new employees to meet once a week with their managers to review the previous week’s work. The discussion should cover what went well and what didn’t, as well as specific plans for making improvements.

Establish a Probationary Period

A 90-day probationary period gives both you and the new hire time to see whether or not you’re truly a good fit for each other. If you aren’t, take time to look into what may have gone wrong during the hiring process and how you can avoid making the same mistake again.

To get more experience-based onboarding tips for construction firms, contact Construction Monitor today.

How Your Firm can Declare its Core Values

Part of differentiating your construction firm from the dozens of others in your area is determining the values your company holds above all others, known as your core values. Knowing how to define core values of a construction company will help you attract your ideal clients and guide your firm toward achieving major goals.

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A company’s core values are five to seven principles that underlie and influence every decision made in the company. Everyone, from the CEO to the receptionist, will refer to these values daily as they go about their jobs. They affect your hiring practices, employee policies, and interactions with clients, as well as your marketing and how you cultivate construction leads in Cedar City.

These aren’t merely basic standards, such as “honesty,” but rather the beliefs your company adheres to that not all construction companies prioritize. Some options include:

Safety – Commitment to the most effective safety practices and a zero-injury culture.
Community – Dedication to contributing to a happier, more prosperous local community.
Balance – A view toward policies that help your employees enjoy a healthy work-life balance.
Diversity – Investment in building a team that includes people from all walks of life.
Innovation – Willingness to take the risks necessary to find better solutions.
Quality – A focus on the highest quality materials and construction practices.

One way to define your core values is to gather a group of people you feel intuitively grasp the company’s character, ask them to list five to seven of what they feel are the company’s values, and allow one person to combine these.

Next, invite ideas from your employees via email and, again, combine them to come up with five to seven specific values. Finally, present your results to your employees and ask for feedback on how well the core values chosen represent how the company actually does business.

Make sure the principles you chose are ones you can truly commit to and that will push your firm toward the goals outlined in your mission statement.

Want more tips on how to define core values of a construction company? Contact Construction Monitor today!

How can Construction Industry Leaders Encourage Sustainable Development?

The construction industry is known as a significant consumer of energy and materials. Not only are many construction processes themselves energy-intensive, the structures that that get built can themselves use more energy than necessary. Over the years, positive attitudes toward energy efficiency and conservation have continued to expand and evolve.

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Source: iStock.com/shironosov

In today’s construction industry, sustainable development, energy conservation, and energy efficiency are taking on a much more substantial role. Here are some of the benefits of implementing sustainable development in the construction industry that can accrue for your company and for your client.

  • Saving money: One of the most important benefits from building with an eye toward sustainable development is saving money. Sometimes you may be able to use recycled or repurposed materials on the project, which usually means a lower cost for supplies. The savings can also be passed along to your client. In the long run, an energy-efficient structure costs much less to heat and cool, and will save the owners and occupants substantial money on energy expenses every month. Even if the initial investment in sustainable materials and high-efficiency equipment is higher, the savings from these investments should still allow the owner to recover the costs within a few years.
  • Reducing carbon footprint: Builders and owners who are concerned with the environment are becoming more interested in applying sustainable development and energy efficiency concepts to their commercial and residential structures. This is a valid concern; using sustainable building materials, constructing buildings to use less energy, and taking similar steps will substantially decrease greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, and other pollutants.
  • Improving reputation: Construction industry professionals who support sustainable development can legitimately use that support as a selling point to clients who are themselves concerned about environmental issues. You’ll be seen as a positive participant in improving your environment and community.

Construction Monitor helps give builders, managers, contractors, and other industry professionals the edge when it comes to issues of sustainable development. Contact us today for more information on implementing sustainable development in the construction industry and how doing so will pay off for you in multiple ways.

What are the Disadvantages of Time and Materials Contracts?

There are several different types of pricing structures used in the construction industry, but one of the most controversial is the time and materials contract. Here is a brief explanation of what they involve and why time and materials contracts for home remodelers can put these companies at a disadvantage.

What are Time and Materials Contracts?

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Time and materials contracts, sometimes called T&M or cost plus contracts, provide high levels of visibility and transparency in the contracting and billing process. The customer pays for the cost of materials installed and the labor required for the job. This is the “cost” part. The customer also pays an agreed-upon amount for the construction company’s overhead and profits. This is the “plus” element of the contract.

Unlike customers with other types of contracts, T&M clients are permitted to see invoices from vendors and subcontractors and can inspect employee timesheets if desired. Customers often believe that T&M contracts protect them significantly since they pay only for what they get and they can check invoices and timesheets to ensure to extra costs have been assessed.

Disadvantages of Time and Materials Contracts

Despite their apparent appeal, T&M contracts can impose several disadvantages on customers, bidders, and contractors.

  • Contractors may not understand the details of accounting in a construction context. They may bill haphazardly and infrequently. They may not have a good grasp of important concepts such as markup and margin.
  • Contractors who agree to T&M contracts may be under cash flow stress and need to get the job started quickly.
  • Contractors who use T&M contracts are often newer or inexperienced businesspeople who may not have substantial amounts of time in the industry.
  • Contractors may find themselves with huge expenses at the end of a project that cannot be collected because of the terms of a T&M contract.

Construction Monitor helps construction industry professionals recognize the factors that will have the greatest effect on their businesses. Contact us today for more information on the disadvantages of time and materials contracts for home remodelers and what pricing structures are more favorable for both new and established construction companies.

How to Work With Difficult Clients in Your Remodeling Career

Any construction and remodeling professionals who spend a significant time in the business will eventually encounter a difficult client. Such a client may be demanding and hard to please; he may make unreasonable demands; or he may simply be uninterested and unavailable. Here are some effective ways remodelers work with difficult clients.

difficult clients
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  • Define expectations early: Clearly establish expectations and outcomes for the job before work begins. If necessary, you could even incorporate these expectations as part of the written contract between you and the client. Make sure all requirements are clear and that the document is signed by both you and the client. It may even be a good idea to have the contract notarized to provide additional protection.
  • Establish a contact point: Make it clear who will be the contact point between your company and the client. If your client is an individual homeowner, the contact point will be easy to identify. If you’re working with another company, however, make sure you and the company knows who will be responsible for communications between you.
  • Document and communicate progress: Keep detailed records of progress on the remodeling project and. During regular meetings with the client, review this documentation, plus any notes and previous meeting minutes. Provide the customer with meeting notes via email and hardcopy. Ensure you have another representative of your company present at any meetings as a witness who can corroborate any statements made.
  • Document any change requests: Change orders or any deviations from the agreed-upon project scope must be made in writing and signed by both you and the client. Changes must be well understood and documented before work begins on those elements of the project.
  • Include “substantial completion” statement: Include a statement in the contract defining substantial completion. A project is substantially complete when it can be used for its specified purpose.

Construction Monitor gives construction professionals the edge they need with the most recent and detailed data on industry trends and developments. Contact us today for more information on how remodelers work with difficult clients and ensure a positive outcome for both contractor and client.

Hurricane Construction Standards can Protect Inland Homes From Tornados

Homeowners in the tornado zones of the United States would be quick to describe how violent severe storms can get. Inland homes in the country’s “tornado alley” and other tornado-prone zones can benefit from borrowing some ideas from home builders on the country’s coasts. Using hurricane construction standards for inland homes can increase the likelihood that a home will survive a storm and, perhaps, even a direct hit from a tornado.

Hurricane and Tornado Considerations

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Hurricanes that strike the coastal regions of the United States are severe storms, bringing with them high winds and excessive amounts of rain. However, the winds that accompany hurricanes do not often reach the same strength as those in a tornado.

Whereas hurricanes are spread out over a generally wide area, tornadoes affect smaller geographical locations. Tornadoes more than a mile wide have been reported, while others have been so small that have torn a home down on one side of a street while leaving a house on the other side unharmed.

Much of the time, the only option that homeowners have is a safe room inside the home somewhere or an outdoor storm cellar where they can wait out the weather and home for the best. Using hurricane construction standards for inland homes increases the chance that a home will survive the ferocity of a storm or tornado.

Applying Hurricane Construction Standards

Some of the most effective applications of hurricane construction standards include:

  • Strengthening the connections between the wall and the home’s roof to make it more difficult for these components to be forced apart.
  • Reinforcing the garage door to prevent it from being pushed in and pressurizing the interior of the home, causing serious indoor damage and potentially blowing off the roof.
  • Continuing to create interior safe rooms that are built strong enough to withstand severe storms.

Construction Monitor keeps industry professionals informed on the latest trends and developments that affect businesses and their customers. Contact us today for more information on using hurricane construction standards for inland homes and how this can improve the safety and survivability of houses in tornado-prone zones.