Where does the next generation of construction professionals start? In schools.

The skilled labor shortage is a serious challenge that’s been in circulation around the construction industry for years. And recent economic variables have intensified the urgency for finding plausible solutions – fast.

Many view construction as a temporary stopover — a job to make ends meet before launching a career. But, what many don’t realize is the potential a career in construction can bring and the caliber of opportunity the industry can offer.

Project backlogs and job openings are up 

Construction has the power to rescript. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act continue to funnel funds into the industry for infrastructure projects. Civil contractors are experiencing high volumes of work since the passage of the IIJA. According to Dodge Construction Network’s 2023 Issue 2 Civil Quarterly, nearly half (49%) of large contractors (revenue of $50M or more) saw their backlogs increase in the last six months.

This all points to a healthy pipeline of opportunity going into 2023. With job openings in construction near record levels, infrastructure construction starts trending positive, and the overall construction sector chugging forward, the availability of skilled workers is a clear concern to complete these projects.  

So, how can the construction industry shift the narrative and make construction an enticing career? The answer is simple: reach the next generation of professionals where they are now… in schools.

What aspects of the building industry appeal to young people?

The continuing emphasis on STEM education presents an excellent opportunity to change construction’s career narrative. The entire building process, from bidding, to planning, to the on-site project work, is undergoing a well-documented and necessary digital transformation. 

Construction is high-tech 

Construction is overflowing with practical professional use cases for emerging technologies such as wearables, drones and AR/VR. These technologies are further from mainstream implementation than digitized processes, but their potential to drive innovation across the construction industry can be used as a recruitment tool in schools and young professional organizations.

Construction is getting greener

Construction also gives an altruist approach to careers: the ability to positively impact the planet and its climate. Gen Z is conscious of the planet’s carbon footprint, and many future workers will seek out jobs that give them the opportunity to promote and implement emerging sustainable commercial practices.  

Construction offers registered, paid apprenticeships 

With growing concern for cost of living, an inability to afford owning a home, or building a savings in today’s world, young people are searching for other paths after high school that will afford them a good living, stability, and a job to be passionate about. Earning certifications in a trade or vocational program and taking on an apprenticeship are comparable options to attending college – often with competitive salaries to train plus the perk of avoiding large student debt.

By introducing new positions around STEM and sustainability with clearly-outlined growth paths and stability, construction can promote unique opportunities for young professionals that other industries cannot.

Construction’s responsibility to attract the next generation of leaders

With so many emerging opportunities to promote a career in construction, reaching the younger generation will take time and effort, such as well-built programs centered around scholastic education and awareness.

The responsibility of growing a strong recruiting funnel must start from within. By funding educational programs in schools that inspire construction – and the sectors around it – as a career and also by dedicating resources to ensuring higher wages and career developmental opportunities, construction stands a better chance to attract young talent.

Construction, engineering and contracting are rich with opportunities, during a time when many industries are battening down the hatches. With devoted investments of time and resources to valuable education programs, future generations may view construction as the career path that those in the industry know it is: prosperous and resilient, with unmatched accessibility to emerging technologies and the opportunity to positively impact sustainable building in the future.