Imagine a world void of construction professionals. There would be no houses, schools, and buildings of any kind. There would be no roads to travel or fuel for cars. Air conditioning and plumbing would be non-existent. It’s a bleak scenario to contemplate, and while it seems like an overactive imagination at work, there is real potential for our everyday lives to be impacted by the growing workforce shortages in the construction industry. Of the 313,000 positions added to the national U.S. job market in February 2018, 61,000 jobs alone were in the construction industry. With an estimated shortage of 1.5 million craft professionals by 2021, it’s no surprise we are beginning to see these types of monthly numbers. However, we have hope with programs such as Build Your Future (BYF).
The mission of BYF is to be the catalyst for recruiting the next generation of craft professionals. BYF focuses on changing the perception of construction to be an industry of choice and providing a pathway from ambition to training, to job placement.
Appealing to the Digital Generation
Utilizing technology is one way to make a connection with the next generation of workers and change perceptions about the construction industry. In fact it’s absolutely necessary. The internet has grown into a tool that is utilized by 77% of Americans daily. That number increases to 94%when expanded to 15 – 24 year olds worldwide. Although the construction industry has a natural appeal — it’s hands-on, offers traveling opportunities, provides job satisfaction and more — it can be thought of as a fallback or secondary career choice.
It has become typical to think attending a traditional university is required to be successful when the reality is many who graduate with a four-year degree are finding it difficult to gain employment. Alternatively, construction laborer made CareerBuilder’s list of top jobs to get ahead in 2018 and does not require a college degree while nine other construction positions were included on Indeed’s list of best jobs to have. With the workforce shortages facing us, appealing to the younger generation is a must. We have to demonstrate to the youth and their parents that construction not only has jobs of high value, in both income and fulfillment, but that it will remain relevant and is growing in connectivity.
One of BYF’s most engaging paths to reach young people is through building our video presence. Every day, 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook and 1 billion hours are watched on YouTube — we can’t afford to not be connecting with America’s youth where they spend a significant portion of their time. From the We Build America video, which highlights the diverse group of individuals who are dedicated to building America’s infrastructure.
To the newest video series: Inside the Hard Hat, which shows perspectives from workers in the field. BYF is shining a light on the exciting career paths available within the industry, in a format that clicks with Millennials and Generation Z. To continue building excitement about what a job in the industry entails, especially for those who like heights and adrenaline, BYF partnered with NACB to roll out a brand-new Inside the Hard Hat video at SkillsUSA, which is viewable in 3D with virtual reality headsets or 360 degrees on YouTube.or 360 degrees on YouTube.
BYF is also giving students already prepping to enter the construction industry or those learning about the possibilities through hands-on classes the chance to spotlight their projects, show off their skills and share their unique perspectives through the annual I BUILT THIS! video contest. As the contest grows each year so do the prizes and participation, 2018 marks the fourth year the contest is offered. This year, BYF and NCCER upped the ante with the addition of a new category, People’s Choice. As 1.4 billion people use Facebook daily, including 81% of 18-29 year olds, allowing the Facebook community to vote on their favorite project will open doors for more conversations about the construction industry and opportunities it offers. The contest is open through October 1stand more details can be found at www.nccer.org/I-Built-this.
Outreach, Resources, And Partnerships
Career Days are fast-paced and can seem daunting when talking with young people that span from neutral to very enthusiastic, but they are effective. BYF participated in 37 events from April 2015 through December 2017 and surveyed 7,300 students about their thoughts on the industry. Eighty-five % stated their interest increased after learning about careers in construction, 72% agreed construction can offer huge earning potential, 55% viewed construction careers more favorably after the career day, and 23% are pursuing a construction-related career after attending the event.
To help engage the workforce of tomorrow at career days, classroom presentations and job fairs, BYF has expanded a growing downloadable collection of resources to use. These materials are for educators of all levels —from elementary school to career colleges to technical programs. In addition to posters, best practices, infographics and more, the digital collection also includes the Construction Labor Market Analyzer (CLMA) Map. The CMLA map is beneficial for both educators and industry alike because it offers a way to check demand for specific craft professionals by state or craft. It allows trainers to know where to focus training dollars and helps educators concentrate on providing craft classes that are needed most in their state.
Another particularly popular resource is the BYF Trading Cards, which cover 33 craft professions. The cards show education requirements, annual starting salaries, brief job descriptions and tips that show why that career path may be a perfect fit. The BYF Trading Cards are always a hit at career days, with many students just then learning about available career opportunities or salaries in the field.
Understanding that states have unique needs, BYF makes it easy for each state to recruit locally by offering comprehensive partnerships. From customized resources to unique videos to state websites, BYF works with each partner to build what they need to have the most impact. Build Your Future Virginia and Florida are both being launched this summer and we’re excited to see the connections that they will make in their states. Build Your Future Indiana is in their third-year partnership with BYF and, from June to December 2017, connected with 27,000 students at 16 events.
Hard Hat Heroes – Veterans, the Perfect Fit for the Construction Industry
One of BYF’s main objectives, to provide a path from ambition to training to job placement as a craft professional, is being successfully implemented through the Hard Hat Heroes initiative. The range of skills veterans learn in the military, from masonry to heavy equipment operation, are a natural fit for the construction industry and Hard Hat Heroes helps make the transition easier.
Hard Hat Heroes focuses on recruiting and providing support to transitioning military members and veterans through a credentialing portal, connections to military-friendly companies and a partnership with NextOp, a veteran placement organization. The Hard Hat Heroes credentialing portal provides a way for veterans or transitioning military members to obtain NCCER credentials for skills and training they received while in the service and allows employers to evaluate craft skill levels and where training may need to be implemented next.
The portal has grown significantly since its release in 2016 and currently has 90 military specialties aligned, including ones from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps branches. There have been 225 veterans that have successfully received credentials with more requests currently being processed. The Hard Hat Heroes credentialing portal was recognized in 2017 for being one of the year’s exemplary and innovative recruitment, training and education programs encouraging people to pursue careers in construction and won a 2017 Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) Workforce Development Award.
Preparing for the Future
Parents and educators have focused for too many years on encouraging students to choose a traditional four-year university instead of including technical schools or certificate programs as viable options, but it is at students’ detriment that they are following this path. A 2017 College Student Survey by Strada-Gallup showed that of currently enrolled college students, only half believe their major will lead to a good job.
Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education and Workforce Development at Gallup states that “88% of freshmen say, ‘getting a good job’ is the reason they go to college, yet only a third strongly agree they are getting the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.” It’s interesting to note however that the students’ confidence in their potential careers rises with majors that focus on science, technology, engineering or math – many components of which are found in career and technical education and the construction industry.
BYF will continue to demonstrate to the younger generations, their parents and even educators that construction not only has jobs of high value, in both income and fulfillment, but that it will remain relevant and is growing in its use of technology. Incorporating elements such as virtual reality, both in recruitment and training, will appeal to the youth of today who have grown up with the internet and information at their fingertips. As BYF and NCCER continue to make digital components a core part of our objectives, from videos to the CMLA Map to the credentialing portal, we’ll keep making connections with the next generations of craft professionals.