To find construction jobs, many workers just look for cranes in the sky, NewCrew founder Kaitlin Lutz said.
Then, they walk up to the job site and hope the contractors need more hands.
It’s an old-fashioned process in a digital age in which most other industries rely on online recruiting and hiring to find workers. That process isn’t helping the construction industry’s skilled labor shortage, Lutz said. About 88% of contractors say it’s difficult to find skilled workers, and 35% report turning down work due to labor shortages, according to a June report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Lutz saw this problem firsthand as she helped with her parents’ construction business while working on another startup idea in financial technology while at the University of Georgia.
“They had a really hard time keeping and finding quality people,” Lutz said.
She pivoted to create Sparke Women, a nonprofit focused on recruiting women into the construction industry, which earned her $5,000 in the UGA Idea Accelerator Program. With that nonprofit, she worked with high schools and refugee communities to place women into apprenticeship and scholarship programs or into construction jobs.
After college, Lutz started working at Terminus, a high-growth marketing technology startup that raised $120 million and started in the Atlanta Tech Village. During that time, she started matching skilled workers, such as electricians, to construction companies through a Craigslist network. Again, she felt the industry’s labor shortage. She didn’t have enough people to fill the demand.
Those experiences led her to found NewCrew during the pandemic. The early-stage Atlanta Tech Village startup finds people interested in construction, mostly ages 18-26, and matches them with companies that will continue their training.
“It’s equipping more people for skilled trade jobs in the U.S. and making it a lot easier for someone to get a job in commercial construction,” Lutz said.
She currently works with nine Atlanta-area and national commercial contractors, who pay a flat fee to post a job for which NewCrew will screen. Job searchers don’t pay anything.
Lutz hosts Zoom classes with nonprofits, high schools and other programs to help people understand construction roles and what the jobs will entail. That upfront information recruits more people into the industry and reduces turnover, Lutz said.
One of NewCrew’s goals is to change the perception of construction laborers. Instead of funneling high school students directly to college, even if they may not know what they want to do or be able to afford it, graduates could consider skilled trades instead.
“There’s a crazy amount of opportunity that [isn’t] really being talked about in a positive way,” Lutz said. “It shouldn’t just be to the kids failing out of class. It should be, ‘Hey, this is a great career opportunity for anyone.’”
The next step for NewCrew is making the online screening process scalable through technology. Lutz says she’s researching where the “technology bottleneck” is for workers — whether a texting screening application or an iPad at a construction site could be viable options for the process.