Construction jobs are vanishing across the nation, but a committed group of leaders is devoted to removing the stigma from the profession and training a new generation of workers.
But first, the bad news: The labor shortage doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Colorado State University construction management experts expect a 38% increase in vacancies in the construction trades by 2025. This comes at a time when enforced immigration policies have added to the worker shortage.
Construction management leaders are looking to the future and trying to develop a pipeline of professionals who will see construction and building as a viable career path.
Mike Moy, a mining plant manager, told the Associated Press recently: “To get qualified people to handle a loader or a haul truck or even run a plant, they’re hard to find right now. Nobody wants to get their hands dirty anymore. They want a nice, clean job in an office.”
Construction management leaders are looking to the future and trying to develop a pipeline of professionals who will see construction as a viable career path.
However, all is not lost.
Programs such as Procore.org’s Brick by Brick, an interactive game that combines toy building material and the Procore's construction management software, teaches the fundamentals of construction management to students of all ages.
Joe Klich, senior project manager for Hardaway Construction in Tennessee, explains the many misconceptions about the construction industry.
“A lot of young people, especially from low-income families, think construction means working out in the hot sun during the summer making very little money,” Klich commented. “They think it is boring, mundane work and are more drawn to the glitz and glamour of the technology industry.”
That perception, however, could not be further from the truth, he said. “The integration of technology into the construction industry is rapidly changing the means and methods that have been used for ages. A lot of technological advancements are really exciting to see.”
The pipeline starts early, he said, so it’s up to the older generation and workforce to help young people understand the value of a construction job.
“The earlier you can reach students and show them what the construction industry is really about, the more likely they are to enter the industry,” Klich said. “There are a lot of negative connotations and stereotypes that push people away from construction. Nevertheless, if you can get past them and show young people how exciting construction can be and how many different opportunities it presents them, they will be more open to pursuing those opportunities.
“The earlier you can reach students and show them what the construction industry is really about, the more likely they are to enter the industry."
“If you can make children understand all the possibilities within the construction industry, you are more likely to draw them in and help reduce the shortage in the construction industry.”
Ed Worthy, ACE Mentor Program's education director, agreed that potential workers need to develop a clearer understanding of the profession within the construction industry. There are many paths toward advancement, he said.
“Young people today need to understand that a career in the construction trades is rewarding. It is not a dead end,” Worthy said. “Skilled craft workers can move onto setting up their own subcontractor companies or even become construction managers.”
They can be certain of their jobs, too. As Worthy noted, unlike manufacturing jobs, actual construction work cannot be outsourced overseas.
Worthy said Procore’s Brick by Brick computer simulation is an effective way to teach students about the process of construction. The game has been introduced nationwide in 40 districts to students in grades ranging from five to 12.
“Rarely will a young person want to pursue a career about which they know very little or to which they have not been exposed,” Worthy said. “Therefore, it is important for industries to capture children’s interest early on.”
It starts early.
“As young people progress from elementary to secondary school, their eagerness to learn about what’s it’s like to work in a particular field increases,” he said. “This is why the ACE Mentor Program, which allows students to experience how the design and construction industry functions, is successful.”
Jack Tipton, Director of Regional Programs (Southeast) at ACE Mentor Program in Tennessee, admitted that the perception of the construction industry is still not as enticing as either architecture or engineering.
“Activities like Procore’s Brick by Brick illustrate the complexity of building a project on time and on budget. They demonstrate to young people the complex task of building a structure,” Tipton said.
If young workers understood the many career paths in construction, the industry could change.
He said if young workers understood the many career paths in construction, the industry could change.
“The design and engineering of structures is absolutely essential to our industry. However, if there is not a workforce to actually build and manage the construction of these projects, they simply will not get built,” Tipton said. “I believe that it is essential to convey to our young people the complexity and earning potential of carriers in this arena.”
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