When thinking about a future career, employment opportunities and high-paying salaries rank right at the top, even for Gen Z. With construction offering job advancement and salaries that can reach six figures, the industry should be a top choice. However, with the workforce shortages we’re already facing, we know we’re not seeing an influx of new workers.
Misconceptions about the industry play a part as well as the opinions of others. In fact, it has been documented that parents and teachers are main influencers of the career paths that students choose.
So what do parents think about a career in construction, and what do they consider important for their children to be successful?
Let’s find out straight from the source. Frankel Media Group, on behalf of NCCER, deployed a survey to parents in Virginia in March 2019. The survey was open for three weeks and had a total of 514 completed responses.
Some of the results were expected:
Eighty-three percent of parents agreed to some extent that a college degree is vital to a good career, with 43% of them strongly believing.
Pay and benefits were considered very important by 75% of the respondents while another 23% ranked it as somewhat important.
Job security and availability was considered either very important or somewhat important by 99% of the parents.
Safety ranked 88% as very important and another 11% as somewhat important.
Job satisfaction was also rated as 88% very important and 12% somewhat important.
The results were split on parents being supportive of their child pursuing a career in the construction industry, although 71% would show support in some manner:
• 45% would be strongly supportive
• 26% would be somewhat supportive
• 16% would be neutral
• 7% would be somewhat unsupportive
• 6% would be strongly unsupportive
Yet, there’s a significant difference in parents who would be supportive of their child choosing a career in the industry versus parents who would actually advise their child to choose a career in construction. Fourteen percent said they’d be very unlikely while the majority at 56% said they’d be unlikely to advise their child to choose a career in construction.
Other results were more surprising:
The importance of prestige in a career choice was split in accordance with how parents rated it:
• 18% ranked it very important
• 35% said somewhat important
• 37% rated it not too important
• 9% found it not at all important
A significant 74% of surveyed parents would strongly support their child taking elective courses in middle school or high school that teach technical or occupational skills and another 19% would somewhat support their students taking these courses. However, 6% of parents surveyed were strongly opposed to their children taking one of these elective courses.
In a comparison of words describing the industry, there were a few surprises that were positive indications of the industry:
• 90% recognized the industry as skilled verses unskilled
• 87% saw construction as interesting instead of boring
• 80% realized the industry has lots of opportunity instead of being dead end
• 82% believed construction to be satisfying instead of disappointing
• 62% felt that the industry was safe versus unsafe
Conclusions to draw from the results:
Among the most important factors in career choices were job security and availability and pay and benefits, which also scored highest on the list for the upcoming generation. It is clear parents can see the value of a career in construction in their evaluation of descriptive words and yet a significant portion of them would not advise their children to pursue a craft profession.
An area the industry can focus on to help change perceptions of construction is the importance of safety and the regulations that are in place. Public awareness campaigns can help parents see the improvements that have been made in safety through the years.
Another opportunity to impact public opinions is making the connections between career and technical education (CTE), or classes that teach technical or occupational skills, and job opportunity and high salaries. Although the perception is that good careers require a college degree, only 33% of jobs in the U.S. require a bachelor’s degree or higher, the rest need an associate degree, certification or credential. With a significant portion of parents seeing the merit in having their child attend CTE classes, the next step is showing how these courses lead to a successful, lucrative career.
Let’s build on what we’ve learned and work on changing the perceptions of a career in construction.