As soon as the word “dummy” came out of my mouth, I knew the reporter from US News and World Report would be using it in his story about the construction labor market. And, while I might have chosen those words differently, I meant what I said.
My quote in the published article read, “For so long, it was seen that if you worked with a hard hat, you didn’t make a lot of money and you were a dummy. I can tell you that is contrary to everything that is reality.”
In fact, I’d say it repeatedly to anyone that wants to listen – more talent should look at the construction field as a place to make a solid, secure and sustainable living.
Conventional wisdom has, for years, convinced young people that pursuing a bachelor’s degree is the most noble pursuit for all high school graduates. With the cost of a four-year college degree now topping $100,000, that classic mindset may need to change.
The construction industry could create a tremendous opportunity for young people to acquire valuable skills that will get them a job without being sandaled with years of college loan debt to pay back.
The numbers in a recent NPR article are undeniable plentiful for job seekers in construction:
- 70% of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers
- Construction jobs will account for one-third of all jobs by 2022
- Tuition and fees for a trades program are likely half of those at a four-year university
So, the opportunity is there – will the talent follow?
To me, many of the solutions to lure the next generation of construction worker are long-term.
Ideas such as increasing trades education in high schools or state-sponsored funding of construction internships for young students are effective. These ideas do not, though, address the immediate need for skilled labor.
Today, new workers are looking for the ability to use technology to build differently – with more efficiency, less waste and using more sustainable practices. Employers leveraging technology in the construction industry should be trumpeting their efforts with the aim of becoming an employer of choice for tech savvy young trades people.
As ForConstuctionPros.com puts it, getting the message to new, skilled labor is not only about “putting out a ‘Help Wanted’ sign…It requires self-promotion in places the next generation of workers “live” (schools, communities, online).”
The new world of the construction trades will not be led by those that refute technology or that want simply to pound nails into wooden framing. The future of construction is bigger and will require more – of workers, of architects, of elected officials and of the use of technology.
Yes, the field of construction is becoming a “No Dummy Zone” – a place where top talent goes to learn while earning a great living that does not fly out the door with monthly student loan payments.
The old, “hard hat and lunch pail” mentality, though, will not die today.
The critical shortage of skilled craftsman to fill open construction job postings will not be remedied tomorrow.
The future, though, is bright – filled with opportunities to draw top talent to jobs that desperately need them. It starts with exiting the “Dummy Zone” permanently – and telling others all about it.