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The Construction Industry Management Crisis - Challenges and Opportunities

By Dean Bortz, MA, CSI, CCPR, CDT posted 08-01-2019 09:35


Editor’s Note: CSI would like to welcome Dean M. Bortz, CSI, CDT, CCPR, as a guest blogger on Dean has 45+ years experience in the design/build/operate/manage environment, is professor and program coordinator for the Construction Management program at Columbus State Community College, and Faculty Advisor to the Student Chapter of the Construction Specification Institute. If you have an idea or opinion you would like to share with your colleagues in the construction industry, please contact CSI Content Strategist Peter Kray at He would love to help publish your thoughts.

Here, Dean provides a six-point outline of the causes of the construction industry management crisis, the challenges it presents, as well as the opportunities:


(1)  The construction industry crisis is one of a lack of qualified, trained workers to replace those of us aging out or just plain leaving. While the face of this industry is skilled trades and crafts people, the real key are the managers, who often come from the field and/or other industries with experience in the “soft skills.” Education institutions are still emphasizing the academy model, which allows for few opportunities for those of us who are hands-on, visual learners. Many left our industry during the last economic downturn through retirement or career changes. Businesses are scrambling to find replacements and new hires from recent graduates to competitors.


(2)  The key challenges include, how to build on the past without being anchored to it, and how to thoughtfully engage the present and future with no fear. And where to recruit and support future managers financially, and with internships/full and part time positions, including K-12 Tech Prep 11 and 12thgraders, two and four year colleges and universities with technical programs. Few positions will be had from the Acloche and other “employment mills.” We need to balance short- and long-term company goals and projects in the pipeline with the reality of personnel retiring and leaving, and be willing to commit and execute a strategic plan with tactics to achieve goals.


(3)  As for opportunities, although universities continue to model the academy, theory into practice, they are finally waking up to some reality and incorporating practice into the educational process as well. Look to your regional two-year technical schools and Grades 11-12 for the “doers.” Do not discount programs such as Future Cities (grades 7-8), Crayons to CAD (K-8) First Lego League and Block Kids (Grades 3-4) for long-term future managers. Look to local trade associations which you may not have considered in the past, including interior design, building operators, commercial realtors, utilities, bonding/financing, and the like. Find partners that you can delegate your weaknesses to, and provide your strengths in return.


(4)  Success stories abound, from career changers to returning military veterans, middle-aged parents and high-schoolers. Skills can be learned, attitude and fit can’t – we emphasize: is this the best fit, and “are you in career mode or still j-o-b for p-a-y?” The young man who recovered from a felony as a teenager to become a project manager, or the homeless woman who is now a safety leader and the middle-aged injured iron worker who commuted two hours round trip to become a national service manager are just a few of the many I have encountered helping to prepare the next generation of professionals in our industry.


(5)  We address this at Columbus State with a variety of degree, certificate, and credential programs ranging from design, construction, skilled trades and facilities maintenance and management on campus, as well as at self-preforming contracting and design-build firms. We partner with the Ohio Department of Transportation and NICET for preparing Construction Inspectors for Work Projects in the infrastructure world, as well as contracting, design, and maintenance organizations. Also, for less than the cost of one term at an area university, an individual can start and finish a two-year technical degree with a 3X or more return on investment part-time, while balancing family and work.


(6)  This crisis will be resolved with or without us, individually and as a group. The economy will find a way and abhors a vacuum. You can choose to engage or not, by committing to improve the industry (and yourself) or go with the flow. Lifelong learning has come to the fore, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.