The construction industry is in trouble. With the median age of the construction workforce increasing to 42, skilled labor is aging out toward retirement and there aren’t enough employees to fill the pipeline. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is currently a shortage of around 300,000 jobs in the construction industry. By 2026, the construction industry will require an additional 747,000 workers to keep pace with demand.
It’s clear that the industry must focus on recruiting young, skilled workers. However, when you consider that almost half of the millennial and Gen Z youths are non-white, were not educated about the opportunities in construction and view the construction industry as a sector in need of a diversity infusion—it’s easy to understand why the industry is having trouble attracting younger generations.
ConstructReach is a construction industry workforce development initiative that seeks to help mitigate these challenges by filling the pipeline of qualified construction candidates to build better futures for the construction industry, expanding brands and youths across America.
Linking Employers with a Diverse Student Population
Today, less than 8 percent of high-school graduates and 14 percent of college graduates are pursuing careers in construction. There are myriad reasons for this, but lack of industry diversity stands out.
When building stops, almost everything else does, as well. If we don’t fill the construction employee pipeline—and make it a more diverse industry—key economic indicators will begin to tumble like dominoes.
This is why outreach is the most important element of ConstructReach’s mission. The ultimate goal on the industry-side of ConstructReach’s work is to bring general contractors, construction company owners, and other professionals into the fold and link them with interns, students and prospective employees.
To get the attention of industry professionals, the organization maintains a high level of visibility in the industry through events, industry publications, blogs and other media. Once general contractors sign up with ConstructReach and become a paying member, they receive access to internship programs, a social network, job banks and applicants, and much more.
Educating Young People and Dispelling Myths
On the other end of the equation, ConstructReach reaches out to the student population, their guidance counselors, and their parents to educate them about the construction industry and provide opportunities for internship and employment. One way this is accomplished is through the “I Built This!” initiative, which is a program that hosts two-day events for high-school juniors and seniors at Target stores and other locations to give the students a hands-on introduction to the construction industry and potential career paths.
Misconceptions about construction work—such as construction jobs being low-paying careers that people “fail into” or that there are no roles for women—are one of the main reasons that younger demographics shy away from the industry. “I Built This” events dispel these myths by allowing students an up-close and personal view of how the construction industry operates. Students are able to participate in remodeling efforts at Target stores, providing a first-hand experience of what it’s like to work on a construction team. They are also introduced to industry professionals who are not far in age from the students themselves.
Making in-person introductions is a critical aspect of the process. Once they’re able to speak with other young men and women who have found success in construction and are continuing to develop their careers in new ways, students are able to realistically envision themselves within the industry, making them more likely to seek out job opportunities in construction.
High Stakes for Businesses
Many large-scale businesses have ample cause to be concerned about the lack of qualified construction workers. According to a 2019 Commercial Construction Survey, the construction workforce shortage has caused 70 percent of contractors to struggle to meet deadlines, 63 percent to increase the costs for new work, and 40 percent to reject new projects. For large corporations, like Target and other big-box retailers that rely on construction for brand dissemination and continuation, high costs and canceled or delayed projects can result in slowed expansion and major financial setbacks.
Strong, Connected Community for a Brighter Future
The only way to solve the construction industry’s labor shortage and lack of diversity is by educating and constructing bridges—as opposed to erecting walls at points of difference. By showing young people there is a path forward for them in construction and by fostering a community of talented, inspired people and companies, it is possible to create a rewarding and sustainable future for the construction industry.