Bridging the Skilled Workforce Gap to Promote Sustainable Economic Growth

28 Feb 2019

Demand for construction continues to grow yet the industry is facing labor shortages and an increasingly aging workforce. More than 90% of construction managers, builders and trade contractors surveyed in the Commercial Construction Index* in early 2018 reported having a difficult or moderately difficult time finding skilled workers

Eleni Reed

Head of Sustainability, Americas

To bridge the skilled workforce gap, industry associations are calling for increased funding to career and technical education. Diversifying the workforce, working to change the perception around trade jobs, and debunking the myth that construction jobs pay less than some white-collar jobs are often cited by industry experts as additional measures needed to respond to the prevailing labor shortage.

As a leading international property and infrastructure solutions provider, Lendlease believes that sustainable economic growth is central to our vision to create the best places. In fact, it is one of our three sustainability imperatives, in addition to creating vibrant and resilient communities and cities and contributing to a healthy planet and healthy people. To this end, in service of our sustainable economic growth imperative, we are championing workforce development in our different markets by providing skilling, training and educational opportunities to people seeking employment in the construction industry. 

In Sydney, Australia, the Barangaroo Skills Exchange delivered training to over 8,900 construction workers on the company’s Barangaroo South urban regeneration project between 2013 and 2015, generating $78.5M in socio-economic value. 

In the US, Lendlease is taking steps to bridge the skilled labor gap by reducing barriers to entry for those interested in starting a career in construction, upskilling veterans on new integrated construction techniques, and mentoring young adults interested in architecture, engineering and construction.

The examples below represent just a portion of the work we are undertaking in this space.

Supplier Diversity

Lendlease utilizes qualified minority-owned, women-owned, local and other historically disadvantaged firms on its construction projects. Lendlease has spent over $850M on such trades and suppliers for active US projects in FY18, where supplier diversity spend has been tracked. This represents 24% of the amount paid to trades and suppliers over the course of those projects some of which began in 2012.

At Columbia University Manhattanville Phase I and Phase II in the West Harlem Development, we have spent more than $355M on minority-owned, women-owned and local owned firms as of September 30, 2018. This represents 33% of the amount paid to trades and suppliers over the course of those projects. 

Workforce development strategy in Chicago

Lendlease Construction Site

Since 1976, Lendlease has had a strong presence in Chicago having completed more than 600 construction projects consisting of over 100 million square feet to date Currently, we are developing three residential projects totaling 5,000 units. Given the importance of this market, we recently assessed how we could promote greater inclusion and diversity in construction and collaborate on endeavours to integrate education, training and support services that enable current and future workers to progress seamlessly towards their career goals. As a first step, Lendlease is focusing on building the capacity of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses (MWBEs) and addressing barriers to employment in the sector.

Last fall, Lendlease, in collaboration with the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association and the U.S. Minority Contractors Association, hosted a workshop in Chicago on “Working with Lendlease.” The event convened MWBEs and centered on insurance, bonding and pre-qualification requirements needed to secure work with large general contractors. The event brought together participants representing 18 businesses, ranging from architectural firms to roofing companies and served as a forum to facilitate a dialogue with MWBEs, provide information on how to work with us, and preview some upcoming opportunities related to our development projects. 

Lendlease is also partnering with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership). Created in 2012, The Partnership is an umbrella organization operating as part of? the public workforce system in the City of Chicago and Cook County. The Partnership combines federal and philanthropic resources to broaden the reach and impact of workforce development services for both employers and job seekers. 
A Memorandum of Understanding recently executed sets out how both parties will collaborate on addressing some of the challenges encountered by city residents when seeking employment in the sector. This includes the creation of a new barrier reduction fund which will make grants available to qualified applicants to mitigate costs associated with enrolling in pre-employment training for the construction industry or entering the construction industry workforce, and provide mentoring and networking opportunities. Funding for these activities will be provided by the company’s philanthropic arm, Lendlease Foundation.

Veteran’s Training Program for Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) Construction

CLT Building in Construction

Lendlease has brought CLT innovation to the US as part of our Privatization of Army Lodging (PAL) program, a 50-year partnership between the US Army and Lendlease that provides quality, private-sector hotel accommodations for soldiers and guests on 40 military installations nationwide. CLT, along with other integrated construction techniques used in these hotels, has made it possible to reduce overall project costs by accelerating project delivery schedules through use of modular components and optimizing labor costs by retaining a smaller and more highly skilled workforce.  

At Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, where Lendlease constructed the first CLT-built hotel in the US, seven of the 11-person construction crew during the CLT installation of the project were veterans referred through the Still Serving Veterans organization. At Lendlease’s second CLT hotel, more than half of the installers were veterans, many from the Soldiers for Life Transition Assistance Program.

In both projects, Lendlease provided an upskilling program enabling veterans to gain employment in the CLT installation phase of construction. Through this endeavor, Lendlease created a core CLT crew made up of military veterans who are now working on the Joint Base Lewis McChord project in Seattle, WA, to build the third CLT hotel for the Army. 

Women in Construction



Lendlease is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In New York, Lendlease partnered with Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW) to promote diversification of the construction workforce in the industry. NEW provides free training for women seeking employment in a construction trade. Trainees undergo a six-week training program at NEW’s facility in New York City before embarking on their career in the trades. Lendlease actively supports NEW through participation on the organization’s Ambassador Council, enrolling our projects in NEW’s Signature Projects Program where a target for hiring women is set, and assisting with fundraising. Most recently, we have provided guided tours of some of our NYC projects to NEW trainees on a monthly basis so they can experience a construction site, ask questions and learn about their future career in the construction trades.  

ACE Mentor Program of America

ACE Mentor Program

Over the years, Lendlease employees have mentored and volunteered their time to ACE, a mentoring program focused on high school students who are aiming to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction. This long-tenured relationship has led to Lendlease working with ACE to re-design and streamline their current educational program. 

Previously, all mentors associated with the ACE program had to write their own lesson plans on top of their specific mentoring duties. To help alleviate this additional workload and provide a consistent educational experience for all ACE participants, Lendlease partnered with ACE to engage an external consultant to review, design and issue a new set of lesson plans. 

Lendlease’s effort to recruit more internal mentors and provide on-the-job opportunities to ACE participants, aims to harness the interest of young adults and translate it into tangible career pathways in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction. 

Overall, Lendlease is providing a pipeline of opportunity to the people in the cities where we work and live. These initiatives and partnerships are key to Lendlease’s success, not just as a business but as a key part of the community.