With 80 percent of contractors reporting difficulty in finding hourly skilled craft professionals, we must continue our drive to recruit, train and retain individuals within the workforce. Although we are seeing increases in funding, we are lacking the trained workers to build our infrastructure and projects. Because at the beginning of everything within our nation is construction — from the roof over our heads to the roads we travel — we have lost our edge of being an innovative, progressive country.
Making changes now is necessary to our continued growth as a country and to the benefit of our people. Not only does construction afford our ease of life and convenience, but it also offers occupations that have been overlooked for far too long. We have encouraged our children to attend traditional academic college paths as the only way to find fulfillment and financial freedom to their detriment — and ours. We’ve turned up our noses at jobs that offer the satisfaction of working with ones’ hands, the skills to understand complex measurements and the benefits and salaries that provide for families. It is time we recognize the pride of working as a craft professional with a career of high skill and opportunity.
As “Restoring the Dignity of Work” points out, one of the first changes we can implement is to “communicate all career paths to students in secondary education and their parents” followed by also “promoting industry involvement and investment into our nation’s secondary and postsecondary CTE programs.” As we come together in October to celebrate Careers in Construction Month, spearheaded by NCCER and Build Your Future (BYF), we have the perfect opportunity to start or continue employing both of these changes.
This month-long celebration begins with representatives from each state requesting their governor proclaim October as Careers in Construction Month (CICM) and continues with career days, recognition of craft professionals and more. BYF provides resources, including how-to guides, infographics, posters, craft trading cards and more, to help each state spread awareness of opportunities within the industry. CICM is the perfect way to start a conversation with students and parents about the options and benefits of pursuing livelihood as a craft professional.
The benefit of celebrating CICM is immense — the impact of how many states proclaim, the students learning about construction at career days and the sheer publicity of uniting as a nation to recognize craft professionals. However, we should use the momentum to continue the dialogue about the opportunities available in the industry and support the programs that are training the next generation of workers. With the time needed to become fully trained, we must introduce options early and show students the merits to career paths in construction.
Check out the following programs that are just a snapshot of education and industry collaborating to connect with students.
Elizabethton Tennessee Rehabilitation Center
Opportunities in construction are available for all students, illustrated by the Elizabethton Tennessee Rehabilitation Center as they recognize the first five graduates of their new program to help individuals with disabilities prepare for employment in the construction and maintenance industries. The two-month program is the first of its kind in the state for a community rehabilitation center and students who complete the program earn NCCER credentials. Johnson City student Blake Freeman was one of the first students and shared, “The program let me meet new friends, prove myself to others [and] learn new skills.”
Northview Public Schools
“Future Focused Fridays” is an innovative initiative by Northview Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focusing on giving students time to consider in their future in the workforce. Students have the option to spend Fridays learning a skill that is needed in the workforce. One of the subjects is Core Construction at Grand Rapids Community College, which teaches basic skills and allows students to earn credentials once completed. “We wanted to create a program in which kids are going to be getting hands-on work with professionals in different fields to create engagement and give them some idea of what their careers could look like post-graduation,” said Drew Klopcic, dean of students at Northview Alternative High School.
Northwest Arkansas Community College Mobile Construction Labs
Arkansas is engaging students through the Northwest Arkansas Community College’s Mobile Construction Labs. Traveling to various schools in Benton County and Washington County, Arkansas, the Mobile Construction Labs are equipped with tools of various sizes, safety equipment and a generator for electricity. Dawn Stewart, the district’s career and technical education director explains, “It’s not only for career exploration but also those hands-on learning experiences related to construction.” From carpentry to welding, young people are being introduced to new crafts and able to earn NCCER credentials. “It gives students a head start in the workforce,” points out Cori Miller, project Manager with Crossland Construction, “and it gives employers more knowledgeable and invested apprentices.”
Wayne J. Griffin Electric
Wayne J. Griffin Electric (Griffin Electric) has taken their apprenticeship program to the next level by partnering with Wentworth Institute of Technology to incorporate technical skills and hands-on, practical education. Graduates of Griffin Electric’s Apprenticeship Training Program have the chance to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in Engineering and Technology (AENT). For both Wentworth and Griffin Electric, this partnership presents a rewarding opportunity to share curriculum, deliver in-house training to Griffin employees and assist them in the goal of becoming future leaders within the electrical industry.
From secondary to postsecondary students, opportunities are being presented which provide introduction to the industry, the ability to earn credentials or the chance to be an apprentice. Students are seeing for themselves the skills that go into working in construction and what their jobs could be — and hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn more about any subject. Through industry and education working together, we can begin rebuilding the workforce with skilled craft professionals and highlight construction as a career of choice.