iStock_000018645635LargeBy Dan Belcher, Director of Workforce Development of NCCER Worker shortages, skills mismatches and maintaining a competitive edge in an ever-changing global workforce are issues of importance in today’s construction industry. What is the answer to fixing these issues? While there is no single answer to solve all the issues, career and technical education (CTE) is an excellent starting point for students in secondary and postsecondary programs to assist in curtailing these issues. Students in these programs are able to obtain industry-recognized credentials in many different fields of study. Credentials represent that students have obtained knowledge and skill training that will benefit business and industry for years to come. CTE programs in secondary and postsecondary institutions are developing America’s most valuable resource—its people. CTE helps individuals gain the skills, technical knowledge, academic foundation and real-world experience they need to prepare for high-skill, high-demand and high-wage careers. Today, more than ever, the construction industry plays a vital role in initiating, planning and providing career and craft training. According to the Association of Career Technical Education (ACTE), “A workforce educated through CTE represents a complete range of career areas across the entire economy—and is driven by the needs and demands of employers.” ACTE also states, “Secondary, postsecondary and adult CTE programs are developing the skilled workforce that companies need to increase productivity and competitiveness.” Students who complete these programs and enter the industry are better prepared to help fill the skills gap that is being left by an aging workforce. CTE programs across the nation train tens of thousands of students on a daily basis and expose them to real-world skills and tasks. These rigorous programs incorporate technical reading and writing, mathematics and science into their curricula. This style of training challenges students to push themselves beyond their comfort zones to be successful. Well-trained and highly skilled workers that hold industry-recognized credentials will be best positioned to secure high-wage and high-demand jobs over the next decade. The construction industry is in dire need of these skilled and trained professionals. I encourage contractors to invest their time, resources and guidance to students, teachers and administrators at their local CTE programs. The next generation of craft professionals is here and ready for an opportunity to join an ever-expanding and technologically advanced workforce such as ours. Pathways2In an effort to provide a nationally endorsed plan detailing how the construction industry and education can work together to train and prepare individuals, NCCER has created the Construction Career Pathways Initiative. NCCER will be connecting education and industry representatives at a pre-conference workshop at the Association for Career and Technical Education's 2014 CareerTech VISION Conference this November in Nashville, Tenn. Together, we can build a better pathways system.

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NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.