When we discuss the current shortage of construction employees in our industry, we typically talk about the shortage of skilled trades, project management and engineering personnel. Obviously, people to fill these roles are in short supply, so companies and industry associations are right to focus on promoting careers in the trades and construction management through youth education, apprenticeships, mentoring and collegiate internship/co-op programs. These efforts are definitely working and will continue to produce positive results by growing tomorrow’s workforce in those key areas. But what actions are taking place by industry firms about recruiting the other personnel required to effectively operate a business in the construction industry?
Think about it. There are many other disciplines required in our industry that get little or no attention at all with our youth and young adult educational communities. Are you hearing much talk about the need to encourage and train more accountants, purchasing agents, estimators, cost control engineers, risk managers, human resource professionals, safety managers, attorneys, and others for the construction industry? When was the last time you heard someone from our industry say they were going to a career fair or post-secondary educational institution with the sole purpose of identifying candidates for potential hire in one or more of those disciplines? Or when did you last hear that any collegiate or technical education institution was training these types of non-craft/technical students for specific careers in construction?
Most students currently enrolled in business programs, law school, etc., probably have never thought about the construction industry as a viable career choice. They likely are not aware that contractors, specialty contractors, material and equipment suppliers, and various service providers have the need for someone in their respective discipline. Ever wondered why that may be the case? In my opinion, we have done a very poor job of informing and educating youth and young adults about the variety of career paths and great opportunities that our industry offers. This is compounded by the poor image that many people have of our industry – one of the primary reasons why careers in construction are not at the top of their list for employment consideration.
Just as many companies and associations are promoting the need to grow the skilled trades, project management, and engineering workforce, we must take similar action to encourage, inform, and educate those in other fields of study to join our industry. This is a challenge that must be overcome to make our industry better down the road.
When the opportunity arises, I encourage each of you to talk with young people in these other fields of study to consider our industry. All of us must continuously sell our industry to the nation’s youth, their parents, school administrators, etc., by telling our individual stories to them in an effort to attract others to the field. There is tremendous opportunity for those with almost any skill or educational tract to not only achieve; but also, to exceed both their career and personal goals and objectives with a career in construction.
How do I know this? I recently retired from a prosperous 47-year career in the construction industry without a project management or engineering degree. Rather, I was able to rise to the highest level, as an owner and CEO of a specialty construction firm, with a degree in business. My family and I are very glad that I chose to pursue and stick with construction as my career industry of choice. I could not have dreamed of a better lifelong career to get me to the “Golden Years.” There is much opportunity for success in our industry through other tracts of study. I can only hope that many of today’s youth in non-technical fields of study will look at our industry as a wonderful opportunity to not only have a long and successful career; but also, to leave their mark in their locales by building projects that make their communities and constituents better down the road.