By Kirstyn Quandt, NCCER
According to the Construction Labor Market Analyzer, by 2019 we are expected to have a deficit of 1.5 million craft professionals. Just let that sink in for a moment. We aren’t talking about a few positions here and there that can easily be filled with a catchy job posting; we are talking about the future and longevity of the construction industry’s entire workforce.
While labor shortage predictions and skills gap statistics continue to flood our industry’s newsfeeds, what’s unclear is the sustainable solution. How do we effectively recruit, train and retain the next generation of craft professionals?
We have attempted to adapt recruitment and training strategies with technological trends and compete with the four-year degree frenzy that is sweeping the nation, but unfortunately, we continue to come up short. So let’s try looking at things a little differently.
Think about the bridges you drive across every day, the schools your children attend or the office buildings you work in. These structures that we rely on define the course and functionality of our day. Without the knowledge, hard work and skill of each and every craft professional, our lives would inevitably look and run quite differently. But most times, we don’t stop to think about all of that. Instead, we see just another grocery store, road, power plant or apartment complex.
But if we stop to imagine each and every pipefitter, electrician, plumber and welder responsible for its sturdy and safe foundation, we may not be so quick to dismiss it as just another building built by just another group of men and women. And furthermore, we may carry that same thread of unwavering respect for the crafts and their contributions to society into conversations we have with youth about career success.
We know that students everywhere crave a career aligning their passion with a purpose. Whether that is buried deep inside a research lab, behind a camera or underneath a hard hat, it is up to educators, parents and role models to encourage individuals to discover the career path suited to their individual personality and lifestyle. Traditional, nontraditional, in a classroom or out in the field, there are many opportunities beyond the sampler platter of four-year majors commonly presented to high school students. It’s time we, as a society, redefine career success and encourage students to consider all of their options.