- - Sunday, October 7, 2018

The U.S. construction industry could use upward of half a million workers for jobs that are ready to be filled, and that number is expected to grow.

The Construction Labor Market Analyzer projects commercial construction will face a deficit of 1.1 million workers during the next decade. While many of these jobs are for craft professionals such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers, the worker shortage extends beyond the jobsite — making opportunities for college-bound students ample in today’s construction market.

During Careers in Construction Month, celebrated every year in October, it’s important to highlight the wide range of opportunities for people with a variety of experience, education and skills who can enjoy a well-paid, lifelong career in the construction sector.

It’s true that a four-year degree is not required to become a craft professional and advance professionally in the field. Through apprenticeship, work-based learning and continuing education programs, construction workers can earn while they learn and continually hone their skills. But students who want a college experience also will find plentiful jobs in construction as the industry continues to thrive.

Construction management — an undergraduate field of study that comprises the planning, design, safety, quality control and execution of construction projects — boasts countless opportunities for students interested in math, physics, economics, business management, engineering and communication.

Many of the nation’s premier construction management college and university programs are affiliated with one of Associated Builders and Contractors’ 70 chapters through the ABC National Student Chapter Network, a partnership designed to not only help create a solid foundation for young people joining the industry, but also build the construction management talent pipeline.

ABC Student Chapters connect students to internships, jobsite tours, networking events, employment opportunities and team competitions to facilitate hands-on experience and mentorship from established professionals.

The major provides excellent employment options for recent graduates, with colleges reporting sold-out job fairs and outstanding job-placement results. The median pay for construction managers — which comprise more than 400,000 of the nation’s 7.8 million industry workers — was $91,370 in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And according to the job-search site Indeed, careers like preconstruction manager and construction superintendent rate among the top 10 jobs for 2018 based on great salaries and abundant job postings.

Construction industry workers also report high job satisfaction because they are allowed to pursue their passions and perform meaningful work building America’s communities from coast to coast.

Commercial and industrial construction projects employ some of the most exciting technologies emerging today. From drones and 3D printing to robotics and augmented reality, construction innovators are finding new ways to plan and build everything from utility plants to skyscrapers and schools more quickly, cost-effectively and safely than ever before.

And there is a great demand for these skills. In the American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest Infrastructure Report Card, the United States earned a D+ grade for the condition of its overall infrastructure, indicating an urgent need for construction and rebuilding projects across the country.

Today’s young people who choose to enter construction professions will not only be constructing bridges better designed to weather natural disasters, building energy-efficient manufacturing facilities and renovating historical buildings, but also contributing to a safer, stronger and more secure America.

To meet the infrastructure and building needs across the United States, recruiting, educating and retaining current and future construction employees at all levels remains a top concern for industry leaders. ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, which reflects projects under contract but yet to be executed, was at an all-time high of 9.9 months in the second quarter of 2018, indicating robust demand for construction services.

In addition, more than 80 percent of ABC member companies report they are having trouble finding appropriately skilled labor — a shortage that impacts firms of all sizes. This problem is expected to continue considering an estimated 40 percent of the construction workforce will be of retirement age in the next four years.

That’s why workforce development is a key priority for ABC and the construction industry. ABC members invest $1.1 billion on workforce development to educate more than 475,000 industry employees annually, and ABC chapters have set up more than 800 apprenticeship, craft training and safety programs across the United States.

This summer, ABC also pledged to recruit, educate and upskill an additional 500,000 construction workers during the next five years as part of President Trump’s “Pledge to America’s Workers.” We’ve made progress, but more work needs to be done in order to recruit construction workers of all education levels and backgrounds into the talent pipeline to fill the skills gap and build America.

To explore opportunities in the construction sector, check out the full range of options at CareersBuildingCommunities.org or connect with career resources at workforce.abc.org.

Michael Bellaman is president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors. He served on President Trump’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion.

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