By Mitch Miller

At Far West Staffing Services, we specialize in matching the right talent with the right job opportunities. Today, we’re sharing advice specifically for those in the healthcare construction space.  

After more than three decades of experience working in construction, I can attest that this industry is cyclical. So, while most healthcare construction projects were put on pause in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As these projects resurface, I’m sharing the top three things healthcare construction employers should consider when getting these jobs back on track — with a little bit of advice to the talent out there too. Spoiler alert: It has a lot to do with establishing new protocols and refreshing our mindsets as we venture into a post-pandemic world.  

Connect with Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs)  

The first step every healthcare construction employer needs to take is to connect with the Authorities Having Jurisdiction for their particular project to ensure permits didn’t expire during the pandemic’s pause. This starts with local, state and national municipalities, but it also could include an organization or individual – basically, whomever is responsible for enforcing requirements, codes and standards for your project’s location. In some cases, it’s all the above. Before relaunching a project, the employer must first get the green light from the relevant AHJs.  During these conversations, we recommend asking these officials about any potential reimbursement programs they might be offering or know of to offset some of the lost costs of COVID-19. There are tons of programs for this specific scenario to help healthcare construction employers with the financial aspects of this downturn. You won’t know until you ask.  

Navigate Next Steps with Human Resources  

Re-establishing protocols and requirements with the Human Resources group responsible for your team is the next thing employers should consider. This will vary from project to project and state to state, but, overall, you’ll need to coordinate with HR to confirm which construction employees have been vaccinated and ensure that those who aren’t vaccinated are using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while on the job.  This might entail requiring vaccination cards upon entry to the job site or enforcing mandatory mask usage. Prior to COVID-19, it was an absolute mandate for workers to be required to wear masks before being allowed to enter a job site: in addition to the mandatory hard hat, safety glasses and a fluorescent reflective vest. Going forward, I anticipate there being a fourth item added to that list: either proof of vaccination card and/or a face mask covering. Employers are seeking new ways to keep their workforce and others safe. As I see it, employers will be required to implement new COVID-19 procedures to prevent exposure, infection and spreading.  

Educate Employees on New Protocols 

Luckily, in this industry, conducting required training and mandatory safety meetings for employees before beginning (or re-starting) a job has always been the norm.  Not only is it an OSHA requirement on the national level, but it’s also often a more rigorous requirement on the state and local levels; particular in California where OSHPD is the governing authority. As such, this isn’t a new concept for the construction workforce and should be a simple element to implement in re-starting those projects. Employers can work with their internal safety teams and the AHJs to create and conduct mandatory COVID-19 training with employees to explain the risks and detail the new and/or revised protocols. Instead of seeing this step as yet another barrier to beginning the job, we invite you to see them as pathways to the future of working in healthcare construction. After all, it really all boils down to the mindset. If you put updated protocols and systems in place, construction employees will feel more secure about their safety at work, which will also release the tension for those working in that healthcare space. No matter what the updates look like, establish those requirements before bringing anyone onto a job site.  

Our Guidance for Those Seeking Construction Jobs 

Now, let’s offer some advice to those looking for work: Don’t get discouraged. COVID-19 hit all industries hard, but anyone in construction (either healthcare-specific or general) would agree that this industry operates with ups and downs, good years of fruition and record sales followed by seasons of tapered-off sales and downturns. It’s just the nature of the business.  

So, as we start to recover from this latest season of downturn, try to position yourself as someone who can adapt to the off season. Be cognizant of what’s coming up in the future, ask your employer (or former employer) what’s next on their horizon, and remain curious and communicative about next steps. Whether you’re in doubt about your future, seeking to get back to working in healthcare construction or maybe preparing to upgrade from project manager to senior project manager, give us a call and send us your resume to become a part of the Far West network. Even if you’re comfortable with your current employment, we’re here to help you learn, grow and potentially find the next opportunity.  

Take the Next Steps 

It’s no secret that the construction workforce environment has changed drastically over the last year. In some cases, construction talent had to leave the industry altogether to find other work in the downtime. This isn’t a new phenomenon (remember what we said about the cyclical nature of this business?), as it also happened drastically in 2008 and 2009 following the economic (housing market) recession.  

With that said, the construction industry is all too familiar in adapting to change. As your partners in this business, Far West Staffing Services is here to help employers and talent navigate those changes. Since our inception in 2014, we’ve been experts in finding the right candidates for construction jobs around the country, and in 2021, we’re adjusting to today’s environment to keep things moving forward. With the roll out of vaccinations, the light at the end of the tunnel finally feels within reach. As we begin to gain herd immunity, we’ll get back to pre-COVID-19 times.   

So, to the employers and employees in the healthcare construction space: Don’t lose hope, stick with it and keep planning ahead. We’ll be back on track before you know it.  

Contact Mitch Miller for advice on your next Healthcare Construction Project.