Skip to main content

How to Find Talented Estimators During the Labor Shortage

There are a lot of essential roles within the construction industry that don’t physically involve getting your hands dirty. In addition to the individuals undertaking the actual construction, there are entire teams involved in the design, planning, and financing of building projects and all the different processes required to keep the business running smoothly.


Estimators play this crucial role. They can operate under a number of specific job titles, including cost analyst, construction estimator, chief estimator, or cost consultant. The one thing they all have in common is their responsibility to work out how much it will cost to complete a construction project or provide a service. Estimators can also work in other industries, such as estimating in new product development in manufacturing and project management across numerous different fields.

They are particularly important and prevalent in the field of construction, however, so finding talented estimators is crucial to the success of your firm.


The Urgency of Finding Estimators During the Labor Shortage

Estimating the costs involved in a construction project is important for a number of different reasons.

For a start, providing an accurate cost estimate plays a pivotal role in the bid process. This applies whether you’re a major construction firm bidding on multi-million dollar projects or a freelance tradesman looking to secure a small one-off job. You and the client want a clear idea of how much the job is going to cost before they engage your services.

The bigger the project, the more factors come into the costing. An experienced roofer might be able to work out the cost of materials and labor for a relatively small individual job intuitively but, as the calculations become more complex and you start to add labor costs into the mix, it’s important to have a skilled professional who can pull everything together accurately.

It’s important not only to cost at a low estimate to secure the contract but also to estimate accurately. The UK recently saw the collapse of one of its biggest construction companies, Carillion. There were a number of underlying factors behind the failure of Carillion, but many reports suggested that bidding too low in order to secure major contracts was one of the most important.

An accurate estimate can help you to secure the job but, just as importantly, it can allow you to do so while still maintaining realistic margins. Estimating the costs and materials required can also play a big part in the take-off process, allowing teams to order in the right materials in the right quantities, as well as securing the subcontractors you will need. This can help the project to take off in a timely fashion and to run smoothly until completion.


How the Estimating Role Functions

Estimators collect and analyze the relevant data required to provide a complete costing and approximate the time, material, and labor resources needed to construct a building or complete a project. This gives managers the details they need to formulate a competitive yet realistic bid. It’s a delicate balance, so it takes a properly trained or seasoned professional to do it right.

In order to do this, they will identify and analyze factors that affect the costs, including material and equipment requirements, labor, and production time. They will need to be able to technical documentation and will often liaise with architects and designers. Some estimators will work in several different areas while some might specialize in particular vocations, such as electrical and wiring circuits.

In addition to accessing current labor and material costs, estimators will have to take a number of variable factors into account, such as acknowledging allowances for wasted materials, poor weather conditions postponing work, and shipping delays.


Meeting the Demand for Estimators During the Labor Shortage

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted that jobs for cost estimators in the construction industry will grow by 11% between 2016 and 2026 nationwide. This represents a faster-than-average growth for all occupations, as companies need accurate cost estimates to ensure that they operate cost-effectively. Predictions show that 23,000 new jobs will likely be available in the industry in the same timescale.

The industries with the highest published levels of employment for estimators in 2017 were building equipment contractors (employing 31,940 nationwide), non-residential building construction (22,470), foundation, structure and building exterior contractors (18,120), building finishing contractors (16,570) and residential building construction (15,310).

Wages, employment levels, and employment density for the industry also varied by state. California offered the highest level of employment for this role (27,550) while Virginia had the highest concentration (2.39 per thousand jobs in the industry) and employers in the District of Columbia paid the highest wages ($89,570).


Here’s How to Find Talented Estimators

You should look for estimators with certain skills and knowledge.

Some of those general skills include:

  • Experience collecting historical data to estimate costs for projects
  • Consulting with clients, personnel in other departments, construction foremen, and vendors, to solve problems
  • Prepare any estimates used by management for planning, scheduling work, and organizing
  • Analyze technical documentation or blueprints to prepare time, cost, labor, and material estimates
  • Work with engineers, contractors, architects, owners, and vendors to change and make adjustments to estimates
  • Technology skills: accounting software, estimating software, and project management software experience
  • Strong mathematical competency, critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, and good judgement and decision-making skills


Depending on the scope of the project or ongoing role, you might also seek specific experience.

If you are looking to engage an estimator, the pay you offer should be competitive, given the relative scarcity of talented people working in this role. Remuneration will obviously vary depending on a wide range of factors, including skills, experience and the nature of the project or ongoing job, but the BLS says that the mean annual wage for a cost estimator working in the construction industry in May 2017 was $68,420. The mean hourly wage was $32.90.

Construction cost estimators might hold a bachelor’s degree in an industry-related field such as construction management or engineering. They may have received on-the-job training and an experienced estimator should be well-versed in industry-specific platforms and software including Building Information Modelling (BIM), Computer-Aided Design (CAD), spreadsheets, databases, and specialist cost-estimating software.

They will also need a number of key qualities and skills, including strong analytical skills, an eye for detail and a methodical approach, strong mathematical skills and time-management skills in order to meet deadlines. They also need to present their reports in a clear, concise way, so they will need strong communication skills as well.

If you don’t have time to look for estimators, there are recruiting agencies that can offer help. Recruiters help you look for talent and are well-versed in the skills needed to get the job done.

It’s no secret that finding talent in the construction industry is a challenge. With resource shortages across most departments, many owners are finding it more challenging than ever before to find professionals and keep them. The more training that is offered to students early, on, the better chance that our industry will see more talent in less time. What success has your firm found in looking for talent? Comment below and let us know!