Authored by Nick Guidry, M.B.A., M.Ed., SHRM-SCP, Construction Career Collaborative (C3) Relationship Manager.
Almost 20 years ago, the Pew Research Center coined the term “silver tsunami” to describe the average worker age increase and the projected impacts of mass retirements. These projected labor losses not only have an impact on contractor capability but also on industry sustainability.
Experienced craft professionals rapidly exiting the industry, coupled with a shrinking emerging workforce, has created a void where institutional knowledge is lost. In this environment, contractors’ operations and production efforts cannot build momentum, which limits the safety, skills development, and sustainability of the entire industry.
K-12, postsecondary, nonprofits, government, and contractors must come together to address this great need. However, the work of creating the next shift in the construction workforce and shepherding industry knowledge begins in K-12 and is spearheaded by CTE Directors.
This article will address effective methods to communicate industry opportunities and the benefits of being a construction worker to students and their parents.
The Realities of Opportunity in the Construction Industry
The most important strategic decision a CTE Director must make is how CTE programs can align with high-wage, in-demand, and high-skill occupations. To effectively understand relaying the benefits of construction work to students requires an understanding of the wage, demand, and skill development opportunities in construction.
- Over the next three years, it is expected that the U.S. will need 747,000 new construction workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Average hourly earnings in construction increased by 3.2 percent over the past year, increasing to $30.73. This is higher than the private sector average of $27.90, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
- The construction worker job market is expected to grow by 12.4% by 2026.
- Trade schools and apprenticeships help students develop job-ready skills and learn while making money, avoiding the average student debt load of $30,000.
Understanding the economic and workforce outlook for the industry creates an environment for CTE Directors and teachers to have candid discussions with vocational-track students and their parents about the fantastic opportunities in high-skilled construction work.
3 Keys to Conversations about the Benefits of Being a Construction Worker
To ensure that conversations about construction careers are fruitful, C3 promotes dialogue that focuses on both economic opportunity in the trades and the potential for professional growth.
1. Talk About Income
According to the NCCER’s 2022 Construction Craft Salary Survey, of the 41 construction positions surveyed, average annual salaries ranged from $49,920 to $98,965. These are precursory earnings and are estimated to grow by 3.2% based on economic indicators.
However, when coupled with an effective CTE strategy, an environment is created in which graduates with a technical license or certifications outpace bachelor’s degree holders. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE):
- 43% of employed CTE graduates with licenses and certifications earn more than those with an associate degree.
- 27% of employed CTE graduates with licenses and certifications earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree.
- 31% of employed trade school graduates earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree.
It is critical that both the industry and CTE program staff speak to students and parents about the reality of earnings in the industry compared with other industries. Furthermore, this conversation should involve a candid discussion about the impact of the 7.1 trillion-dollar student debt load on the emerging workforce's financial life.
2. Talk About the Sustainability of the Industry
The sustainability of the construction workforce has been a hot topic for both economic analysts and the companies that comprise the industry. The terms “Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” have fueled clickbait over the past four years. However, C3 and our mission-aligned general and specialty contractors have championed transformation in the industry.
The sustainability of the construction workforce is founded in the following areas:
- Increase in companies moving from the use of independent contractors to full-time employees.
- Increase in the wages for craft professionals.
- Increase in training and programs focused on the safety and well-being of workers.
- Increase in the capabilities of leaders at all levels of organizations to enable workforce sustainability.
- Increase in companies focused on talent management and development.
3. Talk about Helping the Community
One thing that my C3 colleagues and I hear repetitively from craft professionals is the pride in the projects that they work on in the Houston market. These workers tell stories of driving around their communities with their children and being able to point out the vehicle’s window and declare, “I was a part of the building of that.”
These workers have had a lasting impact on the very face of their communities. This is a long-lasting legacy. Students and parents should be assisted in understanding that not only can a construction career lead to a tangible legacy related to builds, but also for communities to create economic empowerment, greater access to opportunity, and entry into entrepreneurship.
Learn More About Leveraging Industry Partners
The best CTE Directors are leveraging industry partners to help them spread the word through knowledge and hands-on demonstrations or in-class presentations.
C3 can assist CTE Directors with introductions to industry partners through our C3 Educational Advisory Board and Industry Outreach events.
To learn more, sign up for the C3 News Brief, follow us on LinkedIn, or leverage the Contact Us form on our website. We would love to share more insights directly with you about the benefits of being a construction worker to assist students in your school district.