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It is estimated that 29 percent of the workforce will retire by 2026, worsening the labor shortage. The industry needs to recruit more skilled laborers and change the public perception of construction.

The Importance of Promoting Careers in Construction

It’s Time to Share Construction Industry Truths

Every skilled craft professional in the construction industry knows their career brings endless opportunity, high wages, and low debt. Unfortunately, not everyone has received the memo.

The industry needs highly skilled workers to continually enter the field to fill the existing skills gap and prepare for the coming wave of retirees. According to the Construction Labor Market Analyzer® (CLMA), there will be a shortage of 1.4 million craft professionals in the industry by 2022. One reason is because young adults are opting to get four-year degrees rather than learning a craft and joining the industry.

As the industry works toward closing the skilled labor gap, it is estimated that 29 percent of the workforce will retire by 2026, worsening the labor shortage. To combat the deficit and the coming wave of retirees, the industry needs to recruit more skilled laborers and change the public perception of construction.

Here are the facts: The construction industry offers careers with high wages. There is a high demand for skilled laborers. A career in construction allows for opportunity and upward mobility. With increased technology, careers in construction are open to anybody. Construction is vital in modern society; therefore, construction jobs are vital.

If we know these facts to be true, how can we tell the rest of the world? 

To recruit skilled professionals and change public perception, the industry needs to promote these truths and celebrate the construction industry for what it is—a key part of modern society. One way to do this is through connecting industry representatives to prospective craft professionals. 

As previously mentioned, anyone can join the industry—students fresh out of high school, women, college students, and even adults looking for a new career. Those in the industry need to connect with prospective professionals to help close the skilled labor gap.

Industry professionals can connect with students in two major ways: reaching out and speaking at schools and participating in career days. First, by going into classrooms and speaking with students, craft professionals can teach students at any age that construction is a viable career option. By discussing the benefits of the industry with students, their teachers, and their counselors, professionals are helping students consider a career in construction. Furthermore, by educating them about how to get started in the industry, we are helping them take their first steps toward joining the industry.

Companies can also work with local organizations and schools to host career days for students and young adults. Career days work to connect students with industry professionals and show students what careers are available to them within the construction industry. Through speaking with craft professionals, students can gain insight into the field, learn about the vast opportunities and connect with potential employers or mentors.

With resources and organizations in place, companies just need to reach out and engage with their community. The National Center for Construction Education and Research’s (NCCER) Connection Map (pathways.nccer.org/connection-map) helps connect professionals with CTE educators who want to collaborate, improve the industry, and work toward helping future professionals.

With the increased expectation for students to pursue four-year degrees, it’s important to advocate for career path options and technical programs. With only three out of every 10 jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, technical skills are in high demand. The labor shortage is created by high demand and low supply, and to correct this, the industry needs to promote craft professions as a viable career option and not just middle-skill or blue-collar jobs.

Adults interested in joining the field can reach out to construction companies, labor organizations, and postsecondary programs to get started. Many states and cities have outreach programs and associations already in place. SkillsUSA, the Association for Career and Technical Education, Build Your Future, and CTE programs across the country work to recruit and educate people about careers in construction. 

When these adults reach out to the industry, it is important they have journeymen and companies to connect with. By partnering with educators, associations, or organizations, companies can ensure they are promoting the industry and encouraging workers to become craft professionals. 

One way to bring someone into the industry is through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships allow workers to learn a craft and become skilled professionals as they work for a company and earn money. This format benefits apprentices as they gain valuable skills, create careers for themselves and get paid doing it. Additionally, it helps the company gain skilled craftspeople and ensure that they will stay with the company.

Apprenticeships are most commonly found in the construction industry. Plumbers, electricians, steel workers, and sprinkler fitters are all common careers that can begin with an apprenticeship. According to The Simple Dollar, these careers are also likely to continue growing in the coming years. 

With proper outreach, the industry can show people what construction is about and the opportunities it can provide.

Finally, changing public perception requires talking to people who are not involved with the construction industry. Reaching college students, working professionals, teachers, and school counselors will help everyone understand what the industry can offer someone—endless opportunity, high wages, and low debt. One way to bring awareness to the cause is by celebrating Careers in Construction Month, an effort led by NCCER’s Build Your Future initiative. 

Careers in Construction Month takes place in October. Every year, industry professionals are encouraged to file a proclamation in their home state, requesting governors to proclaim October as Careers in Construction Month. The campaign was created to increase public awareness and appreciation of construction craft professionals and the industry. 

Throughout the month, professionals, companies, associations, and schools are encouraged to engage in community events to increase awareness about the industry and motivate people to join the workforce. By opening a conversation and engaging with the public, the industry moves closer to closing the skilled labor gap and reducing any negative public perception of the industry.  More information about the campaign, how to get involved, and how to file a proclamation can be found on Build Your Future’s website at byf.org/cicm.

Overall, closing the skilled labor gap and changing public perception starts from within the industry. Craft professionals know the industry is full of prosperous and fulfilling careers. Everyone else just needs to get up to speed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelsey Zibell is a marketing intern at NCCER in Alachua, Florida. Currently, she is a student at the University of Florida pursuing a bachelor of science degree in public relations. Working with NCCER and the Build Your Future initiative, she is learning and writing about the skilled labor gap and how to recruit the next generation of craft professionals.


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