If you’re a parent, the future of your children is always one of your top priorities.
Two major components of their future are their education and their eventual career – two things which are usually closely tied. Acquiring knowledge and skills and then putting them to use is part of the process where they transition to being independent and (hopefully) successful adults.
So what are you doing to help ensure the future of your children is bright? If your children are young, you may be doing things like starting a college fund or getting them involved in extracurricular activities. If they’re teenagers in high school, you may be helping them explore career options and choose which university to attend and degree to pursue.
In helping your child prepare for their future, there are numerous considerations:
- What are they good at?
- What do they enjoy doing?
- Can they find a job doing those things?
- How much will that job pay?
- Will that job be safe?
- How much will the education required for that job cost?
These questions may be simple on the surface but answering them can be overwhelming. And too often, parents try to answer them based on hearsay, which doesn’t always reflect the whole truth.
You’ve almost certainly heard the notion that going to college is the only way for people to find their way to a successful career. This idea has been ingrained in our culture for decades. And while getting a college degree is certainly a positive goal to strive for and a potential pathway to a great career, is it the only option that young people have to position themselves for success?
Not even close – and the numbers prove it.
Did you know that seven out of every 10 jobs DON’T require a college degree? Your children have many more options than you realize.
One of the great career path options for your children is one that often gets unfairly characterized: Construction!
For years, working in construction has been framed as not much more than dirty, dangerous hard labor that requires little skill and thus is a dead-end or last resort job. While most adults acknowledge that construction jobs are important to the economy and that training for them should be better funded, more than 70% of parents would be unlikely to encourage their children to pursue a construction craft as a career.
It’s time to start thinking differently.
In the construction industry, craft professionals are highly skilled and in high demand – and they make a lot of money. The industry is safer than ever before, and the opportunities for career advancement are nearly limitless.
If parents want to help their children fully explore all the potential paths to success, then they need to discover more about careers in construction. Here’s why.
There’s High Demand for Skilled Craft Professionals
Based on what some of the most popular college degrees are, job demand is apparently not a main consideration for young people or their parents in choosing a career. But while students should certainly pursue their passions, paying attention to the current and projected labor market should be an important factor in the decision-making process.
As an example, psychology is ranked as the #4 most popular college major, with more than 117,000 bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2016-17. But there’s a problem: There are not very many jobs in the psychology field – many of them requiring a doctorate – and the high number of new graduates holding psychology degrees each year makes the job availability even thinner. While psychology ranks highly among the most popular degrees, it also finds itself on the majority of “Most Useless Degree” and “Lowest Starting Salary” lists.
Forty-three percent of recent college graduates find themselves underemployed in their first job, and many end up having to work jobs that have nothing to do with their degree. The big issue is simple supply and demand, and the job markets for many fields either have too many candidates, or not many jobs in the first place. Researching job demand for different careers before choosing a path can help prevent a talented grad from falling prey to this numbers game.
And through that research, the opportunities in construction become apparent. The construction industry is facing a massive workforce crisis, with an estimated shortage of more than 1 million craft professionals by 2023. The problem only projects to get worse, as 41% of the current construction workforce will retire within the next 11 years.
Why the shortage? With more and more people deciding to go to college, fewer people are pursuing careers that don’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree. Add to that some of the long-standing stereotypes and misconceptions about the industry, and there are simply not enough people who know about or are interested in a career in construction to meet the demand.
Adding to the demand is the nature of construction as an essential industry. With more than 20 million people losing their jobs, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and world economy hard. Although construction was no exception, the industry has remained comparatively stable, with construction being declared as an essential business in most states. From building new hospitals to keeping the power and air conditioning on, it was critical for construction to remain active while incorporating new health initiatives into the job site. The importance of the industry contributes to job security and demand, even in the face of a global health crisis.
Luckily, demand means opportunities. With lots of jobs available, skilled craft professionals are easily able to find training and work, and with that comes some additional benefits.
Construction Careers Pay Well with No College Debt
With finances having a major impact on happiness, stress and overall quality of life, it’s important that your child’s future career is able to support them.
The massive demand for craft professionals and the short supply of them drives construction companies to offer competitive salaries and a healthy benefits package to attract new employees.
According to NCCER’s 2018 Construction Craft Salary Survey, the average base salary for almost 30 different crafts exceeded $55,000 annually. When adding in overtime, travel and other potential incentives, it’s possible for skilled workers to earn six figures.
Good wages are only part of the financial pluses of working in the construction industry, though. Because most construction careers do not require a bachelor’s degree, craft professionals don’t have to worry about accumulating thousands of dollars in college debt.
Total student debt in the United States is estimated at more than $1.5 trillion – second only to mortgage debt. Even for college graduates who find a decently paying job soon after completing school, they still find themselves behind the eight-ball paying off loans for often a decade or more. Some studies show that average repayment of student loans could take more than 20 years.
While construction craft professionals still require an education in order to learn the necessary skills and knowledge for their work, their training looks a bit different. One common form of this is an apprenticeship, where trainees are instructed by experienced pros and split time between a classroom setting and on-the-job learning. Rather than pay for their own education, apprentices actually can earn while they learn, being paid for the work they do during their time in the field. In instances where there would normally be some cost associated with getting an education, many construction companies will foot the bill due to the high demand for new skilled employees.
After about four years (8,000 hours) of experience and training, craft professionals can attain journeyman status. With even further time working as a skilled and respected craftsman or craftswoman, they can eventually earn the status of master. With every step in the career comes additional pay and benefits.
By earning more money, sooner after high school, and with no massive debts, young craft professionals have an early leg up in their financial lives compared to many of their peers of the same age and have a clear path to continue making a great living. While buying a home or nice vehicle is a pipe dream for many young adults, it can be the reality for those who have a career in construction.
Construction Offers Career Advancement Opportunities
Nobody wants to be stuck at a dead-end job where there is not much potential for progress.
Studies show that opportunities for professional development and upward mobility are the top priorities for Gen Z in a job. They want to find something where they can grow and continuously take steps up the ladder.
Construction is often portrayed as one of these dead-end jobs where there isn’t much of a future in it. However, this is not the case!
For skilled craft professionals who are able to prove themselves through their work and their attitude, moving up in the ranks can happen very quickly. In just a few years, someone can go from an apprentice to a journeyman, and eventually to jobsite leadership positions such as foreman, project managers or superintendents.
With the shortage of construction professionals and the coming retirement of many of the industry’s experienced veterans, there will be many high-ranking positions that will be vacant, and require talented individuals to fill.
Construction companies will often invest in their workers with continuing education to help in their advancement and ensure their projects continue to run optimally with a skilled workforce. Someone who enters the industry after high school may not initially go to college, but their company could eventually pay for them to get a degree like construction management or civil engineering, depending on their skills and the needs of the company.
The opportunities for upward mobility don’t stop at the job site. It’s common for industry professionals to rise to the level of executive leadership and senior management. Boyd Worsham, the president and CEO of NCCER, began his career as a carpenter’s helper out of high school and eventually became a vice president for The Haskell Company before taking his current role. Despite having no bachelor’s degree, Worsham earned his Master of Business Administration, which Haskell paid for to prepare him in his role as a builder-turned-businessman.
It’s important to know that construction can be a career, not just a job.
The Industry is Safer Than Ever Before
When a teenager expresses interest in going into construction, there is often hesitancy on the part of the parents to approve. They want to encourage their child to pursue their passions but worries based on perceptions of the industry can curb their enthusiasm.
This hesitation often centers around the issue of safety. Construction is perceived as having dangerous, unsafe working conditions and parents don’t want their child to be injured on the job. Famous portrayals in movies and TV shows of men sitting, unsecured, on the end of a steel beam eating lunch hundreds of feet in the air often forms the reputation of construction work.
While construction comes with more natural risk than sitting at a desk in a cubicle every day, the truth is that the industry has made great strides in improving safety on the job site.
One of these improvements is in the area of personal protective equipment (PPE). Eye, ear, hand, and foot protection, plus the iconic hard hat, are requisites on the job. More specialized PPE such as harnesses are required for anyone doing elevated work. PPE and tools specifically shaped for both men and women are more abundant. Focusing on the protective equipment and utilizing them correctly is a simple but very effective method for ensuring the short- and long-term safety of all craft professionals.
There is also more general emphasis on safety in the industry than there was 50 or 100 years ago. The creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971 has been an asset in safety training and the establishment of standardized procedures and requirements across the industry. Daily safety talks at the jobsite help to remind and emphasize the importance of awareness, cleanliness and proper working techniques.
Improving technology is also playing a hand in improving construction safety. Drones and virtual or augmented reality systems help construction teams detect potential hazards early and examine them without threat. Exoskeletons and other assistive tech can help reduce stress on key areas of the human body. Digital simulators, such as those for equipment operation, help trainees get some experience and comfort in their working conditions before jumping into the real thing.
The goal of every job site is for everyone to go home safe and healthy at the end of the day.
Women are Welcome in Construction
Even if parents believe that construction is a good career choice for their sons, they may not have the same thoughts if they have a daughter.
After all, the construction industry’s workforce has traditionally been predominately male, thanks in large part to some of the physical demands of the work.
While the vast majority of the industry continues to remain comprised of men – women only account for about 10% of the workforce – the industry is open and welcoming to women, both in field roles and in leadership.
Proof of this is in the pay: While women only make an average of 81.1% of what men make across all U.S. industries, in construction that number is 99.1%. The gender wage gap is an oft talked about issue in the United States, but in construction that gap is less than a cent to the dollar. With equal skills comes equal pay.
Women are making their mark in the industry as craft professionals such as electricians and masons, as leaders and teachers, and even as owners. In fact, women-owned construction firms increased by 94% between 2007 and 2018.
While the industry is still mostly made up of men, that’s all the more reason why more women should pursue careers in construction! Women bring unique proficiencies and insight that the industry values, and recruiting more women is an important step in overcoming the growing workforce shortages and skills gap.
Construction Gives a Chance to Make a Difference
We all want to make a positive impact. But compared to previous generations, Gen Z takes this desire to another level.
While the Boomers, Gen X and most Millennials all put compensation at or near the top of what they looked for in a job, purpose is what Gen Z is after. Around 45% of Gen-Zers want to work for a company that makes a positive difference, and are often will to make sacrifices in their paycheck in order to participate.
What better way to build a better world than with a tool in hand?
The construction industry has a hand in most of the economy. The roads, the offices, the factories, the power plants, the homes – construction is responsible for all of that. Life-saving hospitals and life-changing schools don’t get built without carpenters and ironworkers and masons. Green energy solutions like wind turbines and solar facilities don’t get built without heavy equipment operators, engineers and solar photovoltaic installers.
Every project a craft professional works on has meaning. A church, a sports stadium, an apartment building. People will live in and work at and use that building for decades or even centuries to come.
Craft professionals also are on the front lines in disaster response. When a hurricane or tornado hits, electricians and power line workers are among the first responders trying to restore power to the affected communities. After the dust has settled, builders become the re-builders as construction teams fix damaged streets and buildings while replacing ones that were destroyed.
Construction offers a chance to leave a legacy.
Thanks to perceptions of the industry, construction has long been overlooked as a viable or desirable career path. But the reality is that working in construction can be an exciting and rewarding career, and one that ranks among the highest in happiness and job satisfaction. For parents wanting to help their children explore all the options for their future, the skilled crafts deserve significant consideration.
Are you or your children interested in learning more about careers in construction? Build Your Future offers resources such as career trading cards, testimonials from real craft professionals, and blogs on a variety of construction topics. Visit byf.org and discover.byf.org to discover more about construction.