Construction Trades Eye Next Generation of Workers
Amid low unemployment, the construction trades industry is feeling the effects of the worker shortage acutely.
In 2008, thousands of workers left the industry during the housing collapse. Now with years of economic growth and an aging workforce, builders know they must recruit the next generation of workers.
“We’re trying to get young people and their parents, and counselors, and teachers, and school board members, and administrators, and influencers throughout the state to realize that there’s a really wonderful opportunity in technical education and in technical careers in general,
and in particular in construction,” says David Siegel, executive director of Housing First Minnesota, formerly known as the Builders Association of the Twin Cities.
Construction Trades Visit Area High Schools
It’s no coincidence workers from the construction trades industry are making stops at area high schools.
In April 2018, a construction trades expo was held at Robbinsdale Cooper High School to give students from throughout the metro some hands-on exposure to different construction jobs.
And earlier in the year, Wayzata High School held a technical career fair to expose its students to employers in the construction trades, as well as to trade schools, and technical education programs.
“We’re trying to grow public awareness of the great career opportunities in the industry and the great career path,” says Siegel.
Getting The Word Out About Career Opportunities
Across the country, it’s estimated there are as many as 200,000 unfilled construction jobs, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We’re an industry that suffers from perhaps a negative stigma, and that’s part of what we’re trying to change with Project Build,” says Siegel.
Builders and trade associations in Minnesota joined forces several years ago to create Project Build Minnesota.
It’s an outreach organization that aims to expose young adults to the careers and opportunities in the construction trades.
“The average construction salary in Minnesota is about 63,000 dollars, so that’s pretty good,” says Siegel.
Exposing students to the variety of construction trade jobs, its salaries, and its chances for advancement, also means talking about different pathways to the industry.
“The kids who start college. I think roughly 50 percent don’t make it through in Minnesota, and now they’ve got a couple years of student debt, and they don’t really have a career path,” says Siegel. “They might have been better served by trying out the construction industry and maybe some technical education of some form.”
Construction Trades Must Utilize Full Workforce
Amid the state’s worker shortage, Steve Hine of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, says its crucial to train young adults for the jobs available.
“Any misalignment between those skill sets that workers have and employers need is just going to exacerbate this shortage that we’re facing,” says Hine.
However, Hine also points out industries such as construction must also find ways to make use of the entire workforce.
“With a strong immigrant workforce, and a very high share and participation rate of our female workforce, those sectors that have not historically turned to those parts of our population are also going to find challenges,” says Hine.
Back at Housing First Minnesota, David Siegel is focused on the long game. He knows it’s a process that will take some building.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” says Siegel.