The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that at least three million jobs are not being filled because of the lack of skilled workers. That figure is expected to reach seven million by 2018. It is rather ironic that the post-recession job growth in certain industries, like construction, is accompanied by the great lack of skilled workers.
Between 2007 and 2010, the construction industry lost 2.1 million jobs, or roughly one-fourth of the nation’s overall job losses. Now the industry is rebounding—construction added one-half million jobs in the past four years. At the same time, the lack of skilled workers to fill these jobs has become a serious issue. Survey results show that contractors have had to turn down work because they simply did not have enough qualified people to get it done.
Many valuable programs in our government and our schools promote the value of getting a college education. Yet, not all high school graduates are ready for college. Nor is college the answer for every student. Some graduates are ready to acquire hands-on skills and earn a paycheck.
A good part of the problem lies in a broken link between our schools and industry. Where there once was robust vocational education programs offered in our nation’s high schools, those programs were substantially cut during the Great Recession. Guidance counselors are no longer as prevalent in our high schools. In other words, the construction industry has lost a valuable pipeline to potential employees, one that needs to be addressed in new, creative ways.
That’s where members of the construction industry have an opportunity to shape the future of their industry and build a stronger workforce pipeline. Here are some considerations:
- Develop partnerships with teachers and school administrators to create greater awareness of the construction field as early as middle school
- Participate at career fairs with educational handouts and one-on-one conversations
- Develop internships, mentoring and shadowing programs to give students a feel for the industry
- Promote the advantages of entering the construction field:
- Competitive compensation
- On-the-job training
- Opportunity to attain degrees in engineering, design and management after learning the trade from hands-on work
- Challenging work that helps build a community
- Long-term skills, such as networking and developing professional relationships
Some industry groups in Ohio, with ties to the Associated General Contractors of America, have launched a website (http://www.buildohio.org/) to educate people about the wide variety of careers in construction, the benefits of working in a construction-related field, and the educational programs available in Ohio to help people enter the industry.
There is more good news: Recent studies show that midsize construction companies are quite optimistic about revenue and hiring forecasts. In fact, a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the construction industry will add 1.6 million jobs by 2022. It will be up to the construction industry to introduce a new generation to its trade. By developing partnerships with education, training and community leaders, it can effectively address the skills gap and begin to rebuild that link.
If you’d like to discuss construction industry skills gap in more detail, please contact Kenneth Goodwin at 440-449-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.