By Ryan Wilder, Director of International and Legal Services for NCCER The challenges the construction industry faces are transcending national boundaries more than ever before. This is evidenced by the fact that stakeholders are more willing to look across those boundaries to seek out solutions to issues like the shortage of skilled craft professionals, the aging construction workforce and difficulty in recruiting young people to the industry. While the problems may be the same, cultural differences and language barriers can often hinder our ability to work collaboratively on solving them. Recently, NCCER had the opportunity to host a Japanese delegation representing various sectors of the industry in their home country, which was both exciting and intimidating. Not surprisingly, culture and language were issues that concerned me. Will we need an interpreter? Will our American business customs, like shaking hands or offering snacks during a meeting, come across as offensive or inappropriate? With only a few days to prepare and many unanswered questions to address, I felt compelled to research these issues with our team and prepare for the upcoming exercise in cross-cultural communication. Over those few days, we discussed everything from the process for exchanging business cards (Hint: Multiply the formality of a business card exchange in an American meeting by about ten) to the protocol for entering and leaving the meeting room. Japan conference roomcroppedFinally, the day came and the delegation arrived. The group included representatives from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, contractors, contractors’ associations and construction surety companies. Our guests kicked off the meeting by giving a detailed presentation on the state of the construction workforce in Japan and outlining the goals of their research. We learned that, much like the U.S., Japan is facing a severe shortage of craft professionals due to an aging workforce and increasing project demand. That increased demand is related to infrastructure repairs needed after recent natural disasters, as well as a strong push for new construction and facilities upgrades to support the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Although we communicated through an interpreter during the presentation, it became clear that we were all on the same page. While culture and language differences had initially seemed like an obstacle, our collective ability to relate to each other through the common language of construction revealed a universal truth. Our industry’s challenges transcend the minor obstacles and differences that can stop us from solving them, but only if we let them. Through industry-recognized and globally portable training, certification and credentials, we can create a sustainable pathway to a skilled workforce that can meet the industry’s current and future needs.

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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.