A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

It Takes a College Diploma to be a Millionaire?

All human beings, by nature, have a desire to know.

So, in the grand scheme of things, does holding a college degree really matter for a prosperous career? How about a willingness to learn a skilled craft or trade in the construction industry?

A recent New York Times article entitled “It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk” identifies an employment trend stating a college degree is the new minimum requirement for getting even the lowest-level white collar jobs, which do not require college-level skills.

According to the article, economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market. Across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one, according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from more than 20,000 online sources, including major job boards and small- to midsize-employer sites.

The author states “up-credentialing” is pushing the less educated even further down the food chain, explaining why the unemployment rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma is more than twice that for workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent. Yet, the U.S. is facing a skilled workforce shortage in construction and there are many jobs available for those with high school degrees who are willing to work.

Pat Kiley, of Kiley Advisors states in his 2013 Construction Forecast that Houston should add another 76,000-85,000 jobs and 115,000 more people in 2013. The construction industry is expected to lead job growth with an additional 16,200 jobs.  There is definitely a need for entry level construction workers in Houston.

Some jobs, like those in supply chain management and logistics, have become more technical, and so require more advanced skills today than they did in the past. But more broadly, because so many people are going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable.

However many high school/college administrators, advisors, and the graduates who leave their respective institutions with limited (or no) job prospects fail to recognize the construction industry's ability to provide prospective employees fair competitive wages and upward career mobility regardless of a college degree. It’s unfortunate the perception of hiring trends have shifted focus from the production of goods and services to the projection of brands where process has become more important than product.

The misconceptions regarding construction as a viable career, reflected by the reduced spending for construction training and physical education classes in our public school systems, creates an unfair and unrealistic expectation that all young adults are suited for professional office jobs. Construction (labor and administrative) jobs, unlike manufacturing, marketing and even managerial positions, will never be outsourced to India, Mexico or any other country. In our quest for the “American Dream”, we have forgotten about the sweat equity and rewards the construction trade industry can bring to individuals seeking career advancement.

Here are six ways a career in construction in a construction craft or trade can trump a professional one: 

1. We WOW people with our projects, we build cool stuff!

Building either a house, a hospital, or a highway gets you a lot of cool points with the public.

2. Big results get big rewards

Big money changes hands on construction projects and wages and salaries for laborers, managers and construction business owners can be very competitive with professional careers. 

3. The fast can whip the big

A lean firm that thrills their customer and makes a decent profit on a project usually gets rewarded with more projects to build.  Construction can be an entrepreneurial endeavor with unlimited upside potential. 

4. Peak earning years are extended longer in the construction industry

Construction values experience and competency and it especially values those who strive to learn and grow from their experiences.  The older and more experienced you get, the more you are worth.

5. You can start a business with gumption and a truck and end up the executive of a major construction company. 

Start small, dream big and work like hell to get there.  You can start as a laborer and work your way up to a foreman, estimator, project manager or eventually a business owner.  You are the author of your career path.

6. College degrees are not required to enter the construction industry.  

Only desire, hard work, and patience are required.

There you have it. In the grand scheme of things, those with or without college degrees, who are seeking entry level positions should shift their attention to workforce positions to help them get their foot in the door towards an entry level construction, craft, trades and administrative position.

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