Game on: construction companies are using new tactics to attract millennials

“Don’t sit in front of the TV all day; you’ll rot your brain out!” exclaim many parents as their child plugs away at their favorite video game. “Go outside and play a game!” they often follow up. These parents may not realize there might soon be a healthy medium for their children.

It’s no question that millennials have a reputation for playing video games – in fact, sometimes to extreme lengths. Of adults between the ages of 18 and 29, 67 percent actively play video games and 22 percent actually classify themselves as a “gamer.” In fact, millennials represent the largest segment of all gamers, according to a study by A.List.

Construction companies facing the rapid retirement of the baby boomer population, are hoping to capitalize on this affinity for gaming. Construction companies are facing roadblocks in their hiring a younger population, as parents emphasize the importance of a college education as well as past instability of construction employment. But by transforming the connotation of construction from a hard-labored task to a millennial-friendly “game,” construction firms may have found a way to alleviate their job vacancy woes.

Companies such as Crane Industry Services are developing and utilizing construction simulators – machines that mimic activities through realistic components – as recruitment tools for the younger population. These electronic simulators can replicate the usage of bulldozers, cranes, and other machines that construction companies use on a regular basis.

“It’s a good recruitment tool because so many young people don’t really understand or may have never seen a bulldozer or don’t know the difference between a tower crane or a mobile crane,” Crane Industry Services CEO Debbie Dickinson said. “They don’t know what these tools are and what these machines are. Maybe if they’re coming in to apply for a job, you can screen them and see their aptitude in a very safe and controlled environment. Or you can see if they like it.”

Crane and other companies developing similar simulators are rolling them out in community colleges, high schools, job fairs, and more. This allows employers to test potential employees’ aptitude for their machinery, and it gives potential hires the chance to see whether they like it or not.

Dickinson points out that as they develop this technology, it is crucial to emphasize that while this may simulate the real experience, the use of construction equipment is not a game. This machinery costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and although treating it as a video game might make it more appealing, the user must also comprehend the reality of using the equipment.

“It is an ‘aha’ moment for that individual and it is also a good screening to see that if they do treat it like a game,” Dickinson continues. “You know, we have expensive equipment, so it’s giving them parameters of the job, the equipment, and the worksite.”

These simulators are also a useful measure of the potential employee’s ability to translate gaming into a full-fledged profession. Otherwise, they might put themselves and others at risk.

The effectiveness of this recruitment technique is far from certain, but construction companies like Crane know that they need to develop unique strategies if they hope to overcome their job vacancy dilemma.

Ben Norman

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